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THE BREAKDOWN: Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto

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 Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto1-4-2012Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto on Saturday, May 5 at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas; on HBO PPV; 12 rounds for Cotto's WBA junior middleweight title

At a glance, the fight looks intriguing. Miguel Cotto (37-2 with 30 KOs) has only experienced defeat twice before -both of which, you could say,have question marks against them. He is currently on a three fight winning streak,looking increasingly galvanised in each of them,and his skills seem alot more refined under the tutelage of Pedro Diaz and Emanuel Steward before him. Once a stalking body seeking puncher, Cotto has now integrated more movement and a well rounded attack into his arsenal.At 31 years-old, Cotto will not only be the younger man, but having campaigned at 154 pounds since 2010, he will also be the naturally heavier man as well. His opponent, moving up from 147 pounds, is 35 years-old. It would be easy to suggest then, that Cotto is back to his best. Back in 2007, Cotto was once as high as number two pound for pound on a lot of people's lists, and many thought he had the ability to beat the fighter that was seeded above him – the very man that Miguel Cotto will be sharing a ring with on Saturday night. Unfortunately for him, the 7-1 odds in his opponent's favour are a perfect representation of the most revealing factor of the fight–his opponent is like no other opponent Miguel Cotto has faced before.

Simply put, Floyd Mayweather, 42-0 {like you didn't know already}is operating on an entirely different stratosphere to almost every other fighter on the planet. When it comes to his application to the sweet science,he is without doubt the most cerebral practitioner in the modern fight game – his ability to dissect an opponent's style and construct a way to negate anything his opponent does leads to his opponents being faced with the almost impossible task of conjuring up a way to solve the Mayweather riddle themselves. Mayweather's boxing acumen leads me to believe that he has selected Miguel Cotto for a particular reason. Despite Mayweather's sterling job of promoting the fight, most notably, his claims that Cotto is undefeated as a result of Margarito's alleged loaded hand wraps and Manny Pacquiao's weight draining bargaining exploits,I honestly believe that this is a fight that Mayweather will be able to dominate from start to finish.

Not too long ago, I wrote a tongue in cheek article entitled “No Lie, Cotto Has No Chance vs Mayweather.” While the purpose of it was to entertain, there was, I felt, some home truths in it. Barring a catastrophic physical decline from Mayweather, I genuinely believe that Miguel Cotto has little or no chance on Saturday night.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a shot at Miguel Cotto – there's a lot to like about him. I acknowledge that Cotto bounced back from his heavy beating at the hands of Manny Pacquiao about as well as anyone could have. Cotto also looked brilliant at times, outboxing Yuri Foreman, dominating Ricardo Mayorga and in avenging his loss against his arch nemesis, Antonio Margarito. Cotto's left hook, to the head and in particular, to the body, may be one of the best single shots in all of boxing. Cotto also has underrated boxing skills, which he displayed well at times against Shane Mosley and in stopping Margarito last time out.I consider Cotto to be a very good fighter, who would be competitive with just about any other fighter in or around his weight class….who isn't named Floyd Mayweather. A quick look at the one dimensional nature of Cotto's last three opponents suggests to me that he could be in for a rude awakening against an opponent who possesses a kaleidoscope of boxing variances.

Having watched the Mayweather-Cotto 24/7, Miguel Cotto's trainer, Pedro Diaz, made a very bold statement that stuck with me. He claimed that he did not believe in improvisation. In other words,Diaz is a believer that he has a strategical gameplan, one that Miguel Cotto will bring with him to the ring on Saturday, hoping that it will reveal the offensive code which will allow him to crack open Mayweather's defensive safe. Admittedly, I too am a firm believer that tactics are the key to problem solving in boxing. Some of the most surprising upsets in boxing history have been won well before the fight, through an analytical approach by the fighter and their trainer – Max Schmeling's knockout of Joe Louis because of a defensive lapse after his jab, Ken Norton's jab parrying win over Muhammad Ali and Bernard Hopkins' left hook disappearing act clinic against Felix Trinidad, to name a few. But against the most layered fighter on the planet? If Diaz does not believe in improvisation, then he must not be fully aware of what he and Cotto will be faced with this Saturday.

To use a Bruce Lee quote -“It is difficult to have a rehearsed routine to fit in with broken rhythm. Rehearsed routines lack the flexibility to adapt.” I consider Mayweather to be – alongside Andre Ward – the most adaptive fighter in boxing. For every Cotto action, there will be a Mayweather reaction. In other words, if Miguel Cotto does indeed have a strategy that is causing Mayweather early concern, I would fully expect Mayweather to have it figured out not long after. Then what?Cotto would have to then be able to readjust to Mayweather's adjustment. That's why Mayweather has the upper hand over nearly every fighter he faces. There are times, however, when an opponent's A game can be sufficient. Prime example being, I still believe Paul Williams' length, southpaw stance, jab and volume would give Floyd plenty to think about as would Pacquiao's unpredictable attacks coming from unconventional angles. However,that's not to say Mayweather wouldn't be able to do the same to them as he has to 42 others who have tried. My point is, these fighters would be doing what is customary to them against Mayweather. I have a feeling we will see a different Cotto on Saturday, at least for awhile.

If we go back to 2007, when the demand for a Mayweather-Cotto fight was at its highest, perception then was that this would be a case of the classic boxer vs the pressure fighter. At the time, Mayweather was primarily a defensive specialist, whose elusiveness on the back foot pretty much eliminated any danger….avoiding risks equated to avoiding defeat. Miguel Cotto on the other hand, was almost exclusively a stalking,pressure puncher -seldom did he take a backward step. Back then, both fighters were unbeaten. Had they have fought at that time, I would have gone with Mayweather by decision. I think Mayweather's slipperiness, and faster hands would have kept the fight from becoming just that, a fight. Because Cotto would have been the fighter pressing the attack, he would have likely received the benefit of the doubt in the rounds that Mayweather was not as dominant in, as well as occasions when Mayweather's back would have been against the ropes, where Cotto would no doubt have been right there throwing his left hook the the body. The likely scenario here would have been that Mayweather's defensive fortress would have resulted in Cotto landing on nothing but gloves, forearms, elbows and shoulders – such is the nature of Mayweather's shoulder posture which protects his tucked in chin. As a result, the fight would have probably been closer than it really was, at least on the scorecards. Judges would have favoured Cotto's aggression as opposed to Mayweather's smoke and mirrors.

Time changes everything.

On Saturday night, I'm fully anticipating a role reversal.I expect Cotto – the former pressure fighter – to be the fighter moving,and Mayweather – the former mover -to be the pressure fighter. Like I mentioned earlier, Mayweather is a such an astute student of the game that he knows now is the right time to fight Miguel Cotto. You see, Mayweather is a master of psychology. He is an illusionist inside the ring and out. On numerous occasions during the promotional work, we have seen Mayweather constantly bring up the first Margarito fight and the Manny Pacquiao fight – claiming that Cotto is really undefeated. Like a great magician, he has taken our attention away from what is most important and what is real.

Out of sight, out of mind.

By focusing on Cotto's defeats to Margarito and Pacquiao, Mayweather has took the attention away from two other revealing Miguel Cotto outings -the Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey fights. I have no doubt that events that occurred in these bouts influenced Mayweather's decision in choosing Miguel Cotto as his next opponent. There are many who believe that Cotto lost to both Mosley and Clottey; Mosley landed 53% of his power shots against Cotto, while Clottey's punch stat numbers dwarfed Cotto's – Clottey was 222/622 with a 35% connect rate, while Cotto was 179/723 with a 25% connect rate. Of course, as everyone is aware, the punch stat numbers do not tell the whole story of a fight, but they do in this case illustrate that Cotto was involved in two highly disputed contests against fighters who are, quite frankly, not in Mayweather's class. Against both fighters, Cotto was hit over and over by right hands. There are two reasons for this:

The first reason, Cotto is a converted southpaw, his left hand, which is his dominant hand, is his lead hand. Because he is looking to throw it more often than his right hand, it is always in a semi offensive position, away from his chin, thus making it easier to land a right hand.

The second reason, when Cotto throws his left hook, he does so with his shoulders squared up to his opponent, as a result of it traveling from his lead hand. Now while Cotto has to wing that shot around to generate leverage, he is wide open for a straight right hand down the middle. Sometimes, victory or defeat can come down to the simplest of things. Also evident in these fights, especially the Shane Mosley fight, was Cotto's inability to fight effectively whilst backing up. Up until the ninth round against Shane Mosley, Cotto had been applying pressure, and forcing Mosley to back up. Once Mosley knew he could withstand Cotto's fire, Mosley proceeded to press his own attack. The result? Miguel Cotto unable to synchronize his legs and his hands – the essence of being a boxer/puncher. This has now been apparent against Mosley, Margarito, Clottey, Pacquiao and will also be apparent against Mayweather.

Don't waste motion. Keep it simple.

Since his hiatus, which ended when Mayweather returned to fight Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009, Floyd has adopted a far more efficient way of fighting. Once a fleet footed mover who threw almost every punch in the book, Floyd now spends most of his time standing in the pocket, limiting his offensive attack to nothing but a jab and a right hand lead – almost like when we discovered there was no need to fly around our living rooms in order to be successful at Wii tennis, the same results can be achieved whilst sitting comfortably in our chair {a strange analogy, but hopefully you see my point!}.Mayweather is such a sensational defensive artist that we sometimes take for granted just how good he is on offense. The counterpunching Mayweather of the past has been replaced by a far more deliberate version.I now view Mayweather as more of an offensive interceptor, rather than just a defensive counterpuncher. In the past, you would often see Mayweather invite his opponent's offense onto him, where he would allow them to complete their offensive technique and perform a slip, duck, parry or a shoulder roll before launching a counter. These days whilst moving forward, Mayweather's punch anticipation, along with his acute sense of timing, allows him to intercept his opponent's attack, just as they are about to throw – he doesn't allow his opponent to complete their offensive technique. The Mayweather of the Diego Corrales fight may have been more aesthetically pleasing, but the current version of Mayweather – more Monzon than Pep -maybe even tougher to beat, especially for Miguel Cotto.

I would like nothing more on Saturday night than to bear witness to a close, competitive fight. Unfortunately, I just can't see it going that way. I think Mayweather's current fighting style is a conflict for Miguel Cotto if ever there was one. Cotto's best chance of winning the fight is to land his left hook. It's a punch that must resurface for him on Saturday night. However, landing that will prove easier said than done as Mayweather's defense is almost designed to nullify circular, lead hand power punches – Mayweather has his right elbow protecting his body while his right glove and left shoulder are guarding his face.

Once Mayweather has figured out the way Cotto is moving and reacting to his own movement, I think we may see the most aggressive Mayweather performance since the Gatti fight. Many will disagree and point to the advantages in size and punching power that Cotto will have over Mayweather, which will make him reluctant to press the attack. Don't be fooled, Mayweather may not be as heavy as Cotto, but he may actually be the bigger and stronger of the two – Mayweather is taller and has a longer reach than Cotto and I would also encourage everyone to take a look at Mayweather's body against Oscar De La Hoya at junior middleweight, and against Marquez, at around the welterweight limit. Notice how much bigger Floyd looks against Marquez, as opposed to the way he looked against Oscar. Despite weighing less, Mayweather's upper body – his shoulders and chest -appear to have developed as Mayweather now looks more physically imposing since his return.

Prediction:

There are not going to be many opportunities to land anything worthwhile in a fight with Floyd Mayweather. I've always felt that if Mayweather ever happens to taste defeat, it will be down to speed, unpredictability and educated footwork. First, Mayweather needs to be kept in his defensive shell – even tougher now, as he is a lot more offensive minded – second, you have to use feints, to create openings, and third, you have to have the footwork to be able to move in and out and around his defensive construct. When I look at Miguel Cotto, I see a mechanical fighter,who does not possess the kind of hand and footspeed co-ordination that would be needed to outfox Mayweather.

I think Pedro Diaz will instruct Cotto, to the surprise of many, to come out moving and try and box with Mayweather – which will be a mistake. Cotto has all the tools, but he struggles to put everything together. He can box, he can move, but he can't box and move, which he would have to combine against Floyd. After his customary slow start, Mayweather will begin pressing the attack, throwing jabs and his straight right hands from behind his patented guard. Cotto, who fights well when under control, can not fight backing up. Mayweather will no doubt know this already, and will set about making sure that Cotto is always on his back foot.

The saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. At some stage in the fight, I expect Cotto to resort back to his former self and try and get the better of Floyd in close, where he will find nothing but a far more refined fighter at close quarters. By the middle to late rounds, Mayweather will be pushing hard for the stoppage – the 8oz glove request is not to be underestimated, Mayweather would love nothing more than to top Pacquiao's effort over Cotto. With Cotto's face showing signs of the most effective punch in boxing, Mayweather's right hand, the corner and official will be keeping a close eye. Mayweather has promised something spectacular throughout the build up to the fight, and for once, I believe him.

Mayweather will put on his most aggressive display in years, in topping Pacquiao's 12th round stoppage over Cotto, with a knockout victory of his own by around the 10th round.

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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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