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Pacquiao Might Have Blueprint to Beat Mayweather

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PacquiaoMarquezIII Hogan 34It now looks like the much anticipated fantasy fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather will remain just that.

A fantasy.

During the recent Mayweather/Cotto presser in NY, Floyd announced that the fight would remain unlikely as long as Pacquiao is promoted under Bob Arum. Mayweather went on, adding that he was not willing to split the purse with Pacquiao either.

But Floyd is considered the betting favourite. So why the apparent reluctance?

Nobody knows Floyd Mayweather better than, well, Floyd Mayweather. He knows his likes and dislikes. He knows what makes him happy or sad. More importantly, he knows his strengths and his weaknesses.

Mayweather versus Pacquiao was once thought of as an even fight. Not anymore. Back in November of last year, Manny Pacquiao was awarded a highly controversial decision win over Juan Manuel Marquez with the Mexican great once again proving to have the counterpunching style to neutralise the Filipino's overwhelming offense. Making things look even more ominous for Pacquiao, was back in 2009, after an 18 month lay off, Floyd Mayweather dominated the very same Marquez, winning just about every second of every round. It was as one sided a fight as you are likely to see.

As a result, most are now of the opinion, that if Manny Pacquiao could not handle Juan Manuel Marquez, who is a great counterpuncher, then surely Floyd Mayweather, who is an all time great counterpuncher, will be able to control Pacquiao with relative ease.

Many who felt Pacquiao may have had the style to cause Floyd problems before the last Marquez fight, now think otherwise.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There was nothing in the last Pacquiao/Marquez fight that has changed this writer's opinion that if they ever meet in the ring, Manny Pacquiao will be Floyd Mayweather's toughest challenge to date. To further my point, there were elements in the last Pacquiao/Marquez fight that have enhanced my opinion.

Juan Manuel Marquez operates very differently from Floyd Mayweather. Marquez is probably the best combination puncher in the sport. He owns a variety of punches that he mixes up, to body and head, throwing as many as five at a time. He is never afraid of letting his hands go, and he is able to mount offense without hesitation. One of the reasons Marquez enjoys great success over Pacquiao is his willingness to match him in the punch output department. In other words, Marquez is willing to risk his defensive responsibility which allows him to land his own shots. As a result, Pacquiao's own offense is reduced. Floyd Mayweather on the other hand, is the polar opposite. Floyd shies away from throwing combinations. Instead, Floyd's straight right hand is his primary offensive weapon, a punch which he only allows to be released, one shot at a time, once the offense of his opponent has been neutralised.

Mayweather and Marquez set about counterpunching in different ways too. Floyd likes to stand in front of his opponent, almost daring them to open up. Once they do, Floyd's god given anticipation takes over. He is able to make an opponent miss a jab by tilting his head back, which enables him to then immediately land his straight right hand over the top of his opponent's exposed jab. Floyd calls this the pull counter. Floyd also likes to counter using his shoulder roll. He is able to deflect his opponents offense off of his shoulders, thus creating an angle for him to counter straight back. Floyd uses upper body movement to defend himself. Marquez uses his legs.

The point is, when defending in this way, Mayweather's feet are planted. Marquez' feet are only planted when he is on offense. Marquez likes to defend by maintaining a distance between himself and his opponent, constantly circling clockwise around the ring. Take a look at his three fights with Pacquiao. You will be amazed at how much ground Marquez covers with his feet. Only when an opponent is off balance and Marquez has created an angle, does he counter. Defending in this way against Pacquiao does not allow Marquez to get caught by Manny's straight left hand. It also keeps his back off the ropes. Alarmingly, Mayweather's back probably touched the ropes more in four rounds with Victor Ortiz, than Marquez' back did in three fights with Manny Pacquiao.

Technically, Marquez and Mayweather are both counterpunchers, yes. But that's where the similarities begin and end. They are like night and day when it comes to how they behave in the ring.

Juan Manuel Marquez does not receive enough credit for his ability to neutralise Manny Pacquiao. It does him a major disservice to make the assumption that Pacquiao is on the slide or Mayweather could replicate what Marquez is able achieve against Manny.

Marquez has somewhat evolved into a specialist at fighting Manny Pacquiao.

Prior to their last fight, Marquez had 24 rounds experience with Pacquiao. He now has 36. If we a look at Marquez' fight's against Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis, you will see a far more aggressive Marquez, sometimes even pressing the attack, as opposed to sitting back and waiting to counter.

Yet for all the suggestions that Marquez has Manny's number, how many official wins does Marquez have over Pacquiao? Ask yourself this. In their last fight, did Marquez defeat Pacquiao? Or did he tame Pacquiao? One could argue Marquez did a good job of not allowing himself to take a beating like previous Pacquiao opponentsShane Mosley and Joshua Clottey did, whilst applying just a little bit more in the way ofoffense to avoid comparisons with them. Point being, Manny Pacquiao is very tough to defeat on the scorecards. Erik Morales managed it once, but that win was twice reversed in devastating fashion. Marquez may have come as close as anyone can to defeating the current version of Manny Pacquiao without leaving themselves vulnerable to Manny's offense. Marquez fought cautious and was backing up the whole time, allowing Pacquiao to come onto him. This is why the judges awarded Pacquiao the decision.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the mystique of Floyd's defensive wizardry and sheer dominance over his opposition. But, if we think logically, logic tells us that a Pacquiao/Mayweather fight would probably go to the scorecards. We know that Pacquiao, unlike Roy Jones during his prime years, can take a decent shot. Manny is not as elusive as Jones was. We have seen him hit often and hard by the likes of Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. Mayweather on the other hand, does not take risks inside the ring, he is not an aggressive fighter, he rarely looks for the knockout, instead preferring to outbox his opponent over the distance.

Because of the nature of round scoring, it is not inconceivable to think that Mayweather could appear to be winning the fight, boxing and moving, making Pacquiao miss and still end up losing a decision. Just ask Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez probably won the battle, but lost the war because of an opinion from two men. Remember, many felt Jose Luis Castillo defeated Mayweather in their first fight. One judge also felt that De la Hoya defeated Mayweather, because of Oscar's constant forward momentum. Pacquiao's style translates to him receiving the benefit of the doubt in close fights that don't seem to go his way. Floyd is the opposite, judges sometimes think hisfights are a lot closer than theyreally are. The curse of the counterpuncher against volume.

We can look at the Joshua Clottey fight as another example. If you were to choose the ten cleanest punches of the whole fight, every one of them would have belonged to Joshua Clottey. Pacquiao struggled to land anything clean on Clottey the whole fight, yet he won every single round because of his aggression and volume. Pacquiao's high volume and aggressive nature does not bode well for a defensive minded fighter. On average, Floyd probably throws around 400 punches a fight. Manny Pacquiao throws around the 800 mark. Thats a 2 to 1 ratio. Damning numbers in a fight that could be the subject of judgement in the end.

It is not just on the scorecards where Pacquiao's style does not translate well for Mayweather either. As mentioned earlier, Marquez and Mayweather go about their jobs very differently. Floyd's defense is one of the best in boxing history, but Marquez may have the more appropriate defense when it comes to defending Pacquiao attacks.

Manny Pacquiao, in the eyes of many, is the best offensive fighter in boxing. Pacquiao's best weapon is his ability to feint, then, using superb footwork, change the direction of his attack at the last second, then explode in with his combinations.

His “in and out” style of boxing is the reason Pacquiao opponents all share the same notion, that Pacquiao throws his punches from such strange angles.

The truth is, Pacquiao only ever throws straight punches, but it's because of the feints that freeze his opponents, and his footwork, that enables him to snake around his opponent's guard which allows him to land the combinations that they don't see coming.

Marquez' style combats this attack perfectly.

His heels seldom touch the canvas, he is always moving, circling around the ring, never allowing himself to be caught in the Pacquiao feint combination. In contrast, Floyd Mayweather often plants his feet when defending. Mayweather's defense is designed to meet offense head on, like waves crashing into rocks. This is the difference between the two defensive mechanics. Mayweather invites offense onto him, whereas Marquez maintains distance between himself and his opponent. It is no coincidence then, that James Toney and Chad Dawson, both defensive minded fighters with a similar style to Mayweather, lost to Roy Jones and Jean Pascal respectively. They were fighters who utilised footwork, combinations and an “in and out” style of boxing to bewilder their opponents.

What about Pacquiao's southpaw stance?

Floyd Mayweather has fought southpaws before, but Pacquiao is very different. Pacquiao is unconventional with his movement. Pacquiao likes to drift to his left which can be very confusing for an orthodox fighter, as the power left hand is now coming at a very central angle. If we look at Mayweather's defensive shell and imagine he is fighting an orthodox fighter, his right hand is protecting his chin and parrying his opponents' jab. Floyd's left shoulder is also protecting his chin and deflecting right hand power shots coming from the outside.

Pacquiao's southpaw stance and unconventional movement appears to trump Mayweather's defense. Moving inside Mayweather's guard, Pacquiao's left hand would now be traveling INSIDE of Floyd's left shoulder, instead of AROUND.

Take a look at the combination Mosley landed on Floyd that hurt him in round 2 of their fight. Now think of the way Floyd was defending himself. His feet were planted, using his parry and shoulders to defend himself. Marquez never defends in this way against Pacquiao.

One final worry for Floyd could be that he is a slow starter, as was evident against Chop Chop Corley, Zab Judah, Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley. Manny Pacquiao, however, is a fast starter. He hurt and scored early knockdowns of Barerra, Morales, Marquez, Hatton, Cotto and Mosely.

Ask yourself this, if Pacquiao was in the ring with Mayweather, instead of Shane Mosley during their contest, would Mayweather have even made it to the next round, let alone go on to dominate every proceeding round after?

Don't get me wrong, Floyd Mayweather is a sensational fighter. His ability to adjust and adapt in the ring is extraordinary and the longer this fight takes to be made, the more Mayweather will benefit as a result. Mayweather's fundamentals and knowledge last with time. Pacquiao's physical gifts, like speed and explosiveness, do not.

Most people agree Floyd is the best fighter in the world ahead of Pacquiao. Floyd is probably more dominant over his opposition than Manny is over his. However, it's an entirely different story when you match Floyd's style with Manny's style. Because of his experience of going to the scorecards in big fights, I think Floyd may have been the only person who watched the last Pacquiao/Marquez fight and actually came away with negative thoughts regarding his own chances. The nature of round scoring favours Pacquiao, not Mayweather. Compubox favours Pacquiao, not Mayweather. Look at the fighters who Floyd has been thought to have avoided. Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito–Margarito was actually considered a threat at one time–and now Pacquiao.

The commonality between those fighters and Pacquiao? Volume.

Mayweather is more than capable of defeating Manny Pacquiao. But to suggest so based on how Juan Manuel Marquez looked against Pacquiao is a false assumption.

Nearly every great fighter throughout history had an opponent, who may not have been as talented or as skilled, yet proved to be more than their match because of a stylistic contrast. Muhammad Ali had Ken Norton, Manny Pacquiao has Juan Manuel Marquez.

No fighter is unbeatable. Even Ray Robinson lost fights. As of yet, there is no blueprint on how to beat Floyd Mayweather. Does the blueprint lie within Pacquiao's style?

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Three Punch Combo: A Bouquet for “ShoBox” and More

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — We are embarking into a new age in boxing. There are new television contracts and digital platforms available that are making the sport more visible than ever before to the masses. But with all these new deals and platforms, it is important not to forget some of the consistent programming that has been around for some time. There is no better example of this than the ShoBox series on Showtime.

ShoBox, more formally ShoBox: The New Generation, began with a simple premise of matching young prospects in with tough opposition. To get their fighters on this series, promoters would have to find credible opponents who could potentially test and maybe even upset their prized prospect. This premise has led to consistently competitive and entertaining fights in the more than 200 broadcasts since the inception of the series in 2001.

This past Friday, we saw just how this premise works once again. There was a four fight card that featured competitive fights on paper in all the matches. However, in two of those matches there did seem to be clear favorites though each of the respective fighters was being matched with their toughest foe to date.

James Wilkins and Misael Lopez opened the telecast in a 130-pound contest. Wilkins was featured in a documentary that aired on Showtime just prior to the card and was expected to make a smashing television debut. He was a knockout artist and the thought was that he would put on a show to open the telecast. But instead, Wilkins got a boxing lesson from Lopez who was busier from the outside and managed to mostly avoid the power of Wilkins throughout the contest in winning an eight round unanimous decision.

The main event featured Jon Fernandez facing O’Shaquie Foster in another 130-pound contest. Fernandez had been getting a lot of buzz and many in the sport considered the Spaniard a future star. This was supposed to be a test for Fernandez as Foster (pictured on the right) represented a step up in class, but nonetheless many expected Fernandez to pass the test with flying colors. Instead, the power punching Fernandez was clearly out-boxed by Foster for ten rounds in an entertaining fight.

These two fights showed once again that when young fighters are matched tough we often get better than expected fights that can sometimes deliver surprises. This coming Friday, the series returns with highly touted lightweight prospect Devin Haney (19-0, 13 KO’s) in the main event taking on former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (33-2-2, 21 KO’s). This is a fight in which Haney is favored but one in which he is facing the toughest challenge of his young career. At the very least, this should be a test for the highly touted 19-year-old Haney and I am certain we get a compelling fight.

ShoBox is boxing’s most consistent series and one that just continues to provide fight fans with high caliber, competitive fights.

10 Percent or 10 Pounds – How To Combat Fighters Who Blow Up In Weight

It is time to address the issue of fighters gaining an absurd amount of weight following the weigh-in. There is a reason why we have weight classes in boxing. If one fighter enters the ring weighing significantly more than his opponent, it gives the bigger fighter a big advantage. This can make for not only non-competitive fights but potentially dangerous situations. I have a simple solution that I think can combat this problem.

In past articles, I have touched on the issue of fighters who miss the contracted weight. My argument has always been to implement a system with stiff financial penalties. So in a similar aspect, I think stiff financial penalties can combat the continued problem of fighters blowing up in weight after the official weigh-in.

What I propose is second day weigh-ins where fighters would not be permitted to put on more than ten pounds or 10 percent (whichever is more) of the contracted weight limit. If they are over, the fight still goes on but the fighter who misses the second day weight limit pays a substantial fine. This simple adjunct can be easily administered by the various state commissions in the United States (or any other commissions worldwide).

Here is an example:  Let’s say we have a fight contracted at 130 pounds and each fighter weighs in at 129 pounds. The second day limit would be 10 percent of 130 pounds which was the contracted weight. So each fighter could come in at a maximum of 143 pounds. Now let’s say one fighter comes in at 146 pounds. The penalty I propose would be 20 percent of that fighter’s purse per pound over the weight. And this money goes directly to their opponent. Under this example, the fighter over weight would lose 60 percent of his purse.

Zero Shouldn’t Mean That Much

We are in an era, largely due to The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Factor, where fighters are often overly protected to keep that precious zero in the loss column. But to do so, they are frequently matched with soft opposition and learn little from dismantling their overmatched foes. There is little to no growth in their career during this period and though the record may get glossy, the development of the fighter may be stunted.

Setbacks can humble fighters and make them see what needs to be done so as not to experience that feeling again. They become better overall fighters and put themselves in a better long term position in their career.

This past weekend, we saw two once promising prospects bounce back with career defining wins after suffering an early unexpected defeat. They are both now in prime position to have their respective careers blossom which may not have otherwise been the case.

Earlier I mentioned O’Shaquie Foster’s upset win against Jon Fernandez. Three years ago, Foster was a highly touted prospect. He had a good amateur background and was blessed athletically with dynamic speed. After building up an 8-0 record against less than formidable opposition, he lost in a dreadful performance to Samuel Teah. Another loss would follow several months later to Rolando Chinea. But Foster clearly learned from his mistakes in these fights and bounced back, layering his natural athletic ability with much improved skills in frankly outclassing Fernandez. Foster’s losses made him take a step back and re-evaluate what needed to be done inside the ring. He is now in prime position to become a contender in the 130-pound weight division.

Luke Campbell was a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and considered a can’t-miss future star in boxing. But in his 13th pro fight, in a rather shocking development, he was put on the canvas and lost a split decision to veteran Yvan Mendy. Another loss followed two years later against Jorge Linares but Campbell performed well while losing a split decision and flashed signs of improvement from the Mendy setback.

The rematch with Mendy for Campbell took place this past weekend and Campbell did what many expected him to do in their first encounter. He boxed effectively from the outside and mixed in precision combination punching to easily avenge the defeat. It was a dynamic performance by Campbell and put him in line for a big fight at lightweight.

Luke Campbell is a vastly different fighter from the one who lost to Mendy three years earlier and appears primed to potentially live up to the once high expectations. He is in a better spot today in his career due to what he learned from that first loss to Mendy.

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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In Dismantling Povetkin, Joshua Recaptured His Swag among the Heavyweights

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He was in against a very crafty and experienced opponent in former WBA titlist Alexander Povetkin 34-2 (24). And although he was troubled by the dangerous Russian fighting small as he tried to inch his way in and time him, AJ adjusted well and started to take the initiative and dropped and stopped Povetkin in the seventh round, retaining his WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titles and thus becoming the first fighter to ever stop Povetkin, something Wladimir Klitschko failed to do.

During the fight AJ was forced back. He had to adapt to Povetkin making him punch down and that caused him to be a little tentative, especially after being bloodied from a broken nose in the first round. And early on, AJ was a little confused and busy trying to keep Povetkin occupied from outside so he couldn’t get in on him. His most effective weapon in doing such was his left jab, delivered to the head or body, although the fight really turned when he began putting his one-two together. Then after a fairly evenly-paced bout, AJ slowed some with the hope it would lure Povetkin to close in a little harder, and he did.

As Povetkin, who came to fight, became more assertive, he became more vulnerable. AJ found the openings for his big right hand and left hook. With the first really solid right hand that bounced off his chin, Povetkin buckled and instinctively went back. Joshua pursued him and then, with near Joe Louis-like accuracy, put his right hands and hooks together, along with a beautiful right to the body in the middle of the assault and finished his game opponent.

Once again it was shown that trading with AJ is almost certain suicide. Povetkin was in great shape and would’ve been a handful for any other heavyweight in the world because he no doubt brought his A-game. Sometimes it takes AJ a little while to get going, and if you don’t do anything to bother him or wake him up, he doesn’t fight with the urgency of a “Smokin” Joe Frazier. However, when you wake him up and force him to cut loose, he’s so dangerous that he doesn’t need too many clean shots to end it. And making Joshua more lethal is that he has both short and inside power in both hands.

After months of hearing how Povetkin was the most serious threat to Joshua, that’s now finished business. Prior to the bout The Ring magazine rated the top six heavyweights in the world as follows…..Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker, in that order. Now Joshua is 3-0 (2) versus Povetkin, Whyte and Parker which squashes the narrative that he has fought weaker opposition than WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) who has only faced Ortiz among the top six.

Today, the most widely levied criticism of any elite fighter is that he didn’t fight the best man or men in his division. Fighters can’t control who their contemporaries are but they can control fighting the best of their era. Rocky Marciano’s era wasn’t stellar, but he fought every top fighter who was in line to challenge him. Floyd Mayweather fought in a stout era – the difference is an overwhelming majority of his bouts with big name opponents were strategically manipulated so that he faced them on the downside of their career – and that’s a fact, not a theory.

Forty years after his last victory in a title fight, Muhammad Ali is respected and revered as a fighter even by those who don’t claim to be a fan of his. Why? He wasn’t the most fundamental boxer in heavyweight history nor was he the biggest puncher, and not all of his fights were edge of your seat exciting. The thing that’s often cited as to why he was a marvel is that he fought the best of the best during one of the deepest eras in heavyweight history. There were a few times between 1975-77 that he held a win over every fighter ranked among The Ring magazine’s top-10. Sure he fought a few Brian London’s and Jean Pierre Coopman’s, but London was encompassed by Sonny Liston and Ernie Terrell during the 1960s and Coopman by Joe Frazier and Ken Norton during the 1970s.

Anthony Joshua hasn’t yet sniffed the greatness of Ali on many levels, but he is on the same trajectory in regards to meeting and defeating the best of his generation. By the end of this month, the WBC heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and former champ Tyson Fury will likely become official with them meeting in early December. And regardless of who wins, Joshua, if he really wants to etch a great legacy, must pressure the winner to meet him in their next bout. In addition to that, he must tell his brain, aka Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, to forget about winning the purse war if it is the only stumbling block. If the winner of Wilder-Fury is impressive, he will have earned a 50-50 split.

During the faux negotiations between the Joshua and Wilder camps this past summer the purse split was the focal point. And prior to the prospect of Wilder and Fury meeting, Joshua clearly held the better hand based on his resume and owning three titles to Wilder’s single title.  But the Wilder-Fury winner will have closed the gap and Joshua needs to be next while the fighters are at or near their prime. The fact is Joshua versus the Wilder/Fury winner will be the most widely anticipated fight in the heavyweight division since Lewis-Tyson and maybe even since Tyson-Holyfield I. The onus is on the fighters to make it happen and they both have the clout to make sure it does, especially Joshua.

Interviewed in the ring after dispatching Povetkin, AJ said it didn’t matter to him who he fought next as long as it’s Wilder or Fury, but it was obvious that he preferred Wilder. A lot depends on how Wilder fares with Fury, but until then, here’s what we know…..Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz are about on the same level; having never faced each other, it’s a tossup as to who’d win. Both Joshua and Wilder scored impressive stoppages over Povetkin and Ortiz respectively…AJ needed seven rounds and Deontay needed ten rounds. During his bout with Ortiz, Wilder was knocked around the ring and had to endure a few big exchanges, some of which he came out second-best. Wilder was also nearly stopped in the seventh round but battled back, summoning great courage and reserve to win a fight he was losing. Against Povetkin, Joshua was more troubled than he was beaten up. And once he found his range and pace and began putting his punches together, the fight ultimately ended when AJ got off with his best stuff. In essence, Joshua was more impressive against Povetkin and had fewer close calls than did Wilder against Ortiz.

Between now and the time Wilder fights Tyson Fury, it’ll be debated as to who was more impressive – Joshua against Povetkin or Wilder against Ortiz; the answer is clearly Joshua for the reasons stated. Moreover, when analyzing a fight, A + B doesn’t equal C. Joshua will be favored over either Wilder or Fury, but probably along the line of 7-5 and nothing will change that.

The thing that emerged from Joshua dismantling Povetkin is that AJ recaptured some of the limelight and swag he ceded to Wilder this past March. AJ is again the fighter to beat in the heavyweight division and will probably get the bigger purse split regardless of whether he faces Wilder and Fury.

That said, he better not let the fight fall through over it!

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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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans

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Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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