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THE BREAKDOWN: Erik Morales-Danny Garcia

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MoralesGarciaHouPC Richardson9THE SETTING:

Nearly all great fighters are eventually knocked off their pedestal by a younger, hungrier opponent. This Saturday, at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas, Mexican legend Erik Morales will be hoping to prove that it's not yet time for him to be knocked off, when he defends his 140 pound title against  unbeaten rising star Danny Garcia. The bout will be televised by HBO.

Greatness can be an overused word in boxing. But when it comes to the career of Erik Morales, 52-7, [36 kos] there are few better words with which to describe him. Morales, a sure fire hall-of-famer, has just about done it all. Starting with his first world title at the age of 21, with a win over Daniel Zaragoza in 1997, Morales went onto establish himself as one of the best Mexican fighters of this or any era. While he is most famous for his grueling trilogy with Mexican rival Marco Antonio Barrera, which remains his most compelling body of work, his upset win over Manny Pacquiao back in 2005 [Morales remains the only fighter to defeat Pacquiao in America] may well be his best.

For a time, it looked like it was also his last.

After three defeats fights in a row [Zahir Raheem and Pacquiao twice] Morales stepped up to the lightweight division where he challenged titlist David Diaz. Despite being the more skilled fighter, Morales ended up on the wrong side of a unanimous decision. It was his fourth defeat in a row. Consequently, Morales retired from boxing.

Mounting a comeback in 2010, against far less talented opposition, Morales won three fights in a row. Looking less than impressive in each, the old warrior it seemed, could no longer compete at the highest level.

Heading into his fight with the hard punching Marcos Maidana, Morales was deemed nothing more than a sacrificial lamb being led to its slaughter. So much so, many feared for Morales' safety. Defiantly, and against the odds, Morales put on an outstanding display. Displaying his old warrior spirit, ” El Terrible ” competed  on even terms with one of the most feared fighters in boxing. Although he lost a majority decision, there were those who thought Morales deserved the win. Last time out, back in September of last year, 36 year-old Morales became the first Mexican four weight world champion [bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight and junior welterweight] when he defeated Pablo Cesar Cano for the vacant 140 pound title. His place in Canastota is well beyond doubt.

By the time Philadelphian prospect Danny Garcia, 22-0 [14 kos] made his professional debut in 2007, Erik Morales was already three months into his supposed retirement. Appearing mainly as an undercard attraction, Garcia quickly set tongues wagging with his crowd pleasing, knockout ending performances. Garcia dominated his early opposition, remaining untested until his sixteenth pro contest, in a tough split decision win over England's Ashley Theophane.

Garcia continued his winning ways with four consecutive stoppage victories, before taking a significant step up in competition against former lightweight title holder, Nate Campbell. With Campbell clearly past his best, the younger Garcia dominated the action throughout, winning by a wide unanimous decision.

Last time out, in what was on paper, the biggest test of his young career, Garcia took on the hard hitting Kendall Holt. Although Garcia won by split decision, the fight was not as close as the official result suggests. Garcia outworked Holt from start to finish, in what was a very good showing against a dangerous opponent.

Defeat for Morales at this stage in his career could make this fight his last. A win, and there is a strong possibility we may finally see Morales versus Juan Manuel Marquez, the missing piece of this era's featherweight jigsaw puzzle [Barerra, Pacquiao, Morales, Marquez]. Garcia on the other hand, will be doing his upmost to make sure that the wishes of most boxing fans are not granted.

THE SCIENCE:

Morales, fighting out of an orthodox stance, has changed his style somewhat over the years. Where Morales was once a take two to land one ultra aggressor, age, wear and tear and experience have resulted in him becoming  more of a ring strategist. Still a blood-and-guts warrior, a lot of Morales' Tijuana tenacity has been replaced with technique. A smart counterpuncher, Morales is effective with a variety of punches. His jab, either to create distance or set up other punches, has been featured a lot more of late. His lack of speed is well compensated by the accuracy of his punches. While he is not thought to be in the same league as Juan Manuel Marquez when it comes to combination punching, Morales can still let the punches flow. His straight right hand, along with his right uppercut, could well be his best shots. Morales' left hook to the body, which, like most of his shots, is not devastating, has enough power to keep an opponent honest. A creative  fighter, Morales likes to disguise his left uppercut behind a straight right hand feint. This served Morales extremely well against Marcos Maidana.

Defensively, Morales has improved significantly over the years. Where at one time his answer to defense was more offense, Morales now shows a lot more responsibility when it comes to defending. Refusing to take a step back during his early years, Morales, using his footwork, is now very effective at creating angles and distance to mute offense. Even with his back to the ropes, Morales is very calm under pressure. Rather than simply rally back with offense, Morales prefers to slip and roll with the punches. Maidana, one of the better inside fighters in boxing, found it difficult to land clean on Morales when he was up on the ropes.

Like Morales, Garcia is an orthodox boxer-puncher. His blend of speed and power make him a formidable opponent for anyone at 140 pounds. Garcia's lead left hook, thrown either upstairs or down, is his most fluid and effective punch. Garcia also mixes his left handed attack up with a well timed overhand right. Because of his strong amateur pedigree, he looks extremely comfortable in the ring. Capable of fighting going forward or backing up, Garcia can adapt to his opponent's style. While he can keep the fight at a distance behind his jab, Garcia's best work may be done in close. A committed body puncher, using his left hand in particular, Garcia can reduce his opponent's activity levels during the fight. He is also very effective at countering on the inside. By bending at the waist, Garcia can slip a punch, and immediately counter with a left hook. As a result of his above average handspeed, Garcia  has a way of turning his left jab into a lead left hook at the last second. His left hand attack cannot be overstated.

Although not a defensive wizard, because of good footwork, good balance and good reflexes, Garcia's defense is above average. He can step out of range or use upper body movement to evade punches. While he sometimes carries his hands a little low, Garcia's understanding of ring generalship, in particular, his ability to move off at an angle after throwing, has
kept him from being in any real trouble thus far.

THE SCENARIO:

While Morales holds the advantage in craftsmanship and experience, Garcia possesses the advantages that go with youth. Speed is the biggest equalizer in sports. Technique can trump power, but speed can trump technique.

Morales has experienced both cases.

Against Marcos Maidana, technique trumped power. Doing his best impression of Carmen Basillio against Ray Robinson and with his eye badly swollen, it appeared Morales had rolled back the years. He came within an inch of defeating the most feared man in the 140 pound division. On reflection, Morales, using his superior technique, took advantage of Maidana's wildness. Where Maidana was plodding forward with no head movement, throwing wide, easily read punches, Morales was using angles, throwing straight punches down the middle. Maidana's lack of speed and eagerness to load up on his punches was there to be taken advantage of. On the other hand, against Manny Pacquiao, Erik Morales' superior technique was rendered useless by Pacquiao's speed and power. Unable to keep up with the younger man, Morales' own lack of speed was taken advantage of. In his last outing, Morales looked far from convincing against a fighter who can be considered a full one or two levels below himself. Yet because of Cano's speed and movement, the fight was fought on even terms for longer than it really should have been.

Erik Morales is 36 years old. More importantly, an OLD 36 years old. He has been involved in so many tough wars during his career, that it is hard to believe Morales is twelve years Bernard Hopkins' junior. Combine this with the fact that Morales is really a super feather/lightweight fighting at junior welter by being overweight, and you get a true understanding of what he will be up against when he meets Garcia.

Of course, there are some areas of Garcia's game that Morales could exploit. Garcia, like Maidana, throws wide looping punches, mainly his lead left hook. If Morales can take a step to his left, and get his right shoulder in line with Garcia's centre, his straight right hand could find a home. Alternatively, Morales could take advantage of Garcia's lack of head movement, and low left hand, by throwing an overhand right. Then there is Morales' tremendous resiliency. Garcia has never been involved in anything like what Morales has been through. If Morales can make it a war, Garcia may find himself out of his depth.

In reality, Morales' strong showing against Maidana was down to a conflict in styles and skill, not age and youth, as Morales will likely be a victim of against Garcia.

Ultimately, Danny Garcia should be too big, too fast, too strong and too energetic for Morales. Garcia's speed and intelligence will likely keep him from getting into the trenches with Morales. Garcia will employ lateral movement, and lots of it. Garcia will be throwing volume… with speed, then moving off at angles…with speed.

Speed kills, and that's an asset missing in Morales' work.

Morales will probably be competitive early on, even placing doubt in Garcia's head. Utilising patience and timing, along with his well placed jab and right hand, Morales will be doing his best trying to convince everyone that he has Garcia figured out.

However, around the mid way point, the fight will change course.

With Morales unable to keep up with the pace of the fight, there will be more urgency in Garcia's work; by throwing his left hand more, particularly to the body, Morales will start slowing up. Consequently, Morales will be on the receiving end of some heavier shots, like heavy left hooks and right hands. With Morales fading, and way behind on the scorecards, the ring official will be keeping a close eye on the action. Morales' tremendous resolve should see him mount one last surge late in the fight, but because of Garcia's earlier work, it will likely be too little and too late for Erik Morales.

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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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