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To Vegas and Back, For Pacquiao-Bradley



Fighting-inside-2aphoto by Katharine Rodriguez

The drive to Las Vegas from Riverside takes about three hours and if you have the right company or the right music it seems even shorter.

The June 9th mega fight between Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley and Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao was motivation enough to attract large crowds to the casino capital but the annual Electric Daisy Carnival event bumped up the town 10 times more than usual.

Las Vegas was packed with teens and 20-something year olds roaming all over the desert city. Every single restaurant, every single casino and every street near the Las Vegas Strip was stacked and filled with carloads of youth driving up and down with written markings on their car windows like “EDC forever.”

I hadn’t seen Vegas this crowded since Ricky Hatton and his British followers hit the town back in December 2007. That was some bash too. The Brits drank Vegas dry and beer was hard to find. They were literally sleeping in the bar lounges of the MGM and nearby casinos.

By Thursday, the EDCers had arrived and were antsy for their party to begin. The boxing crowd would not begin arriving until Friday, yet, Vegas was already feeling the crunch of people. That was a good thing.

Usually it takes me a day to get things settled and arriving on a Thursday allows me to visit the local gyms in the area. This time however I arrived too late and only had time to do some writing.


Friday morning I woke up around 7 a.m. grabbed some coffee and checked out the schedules for the boxing events. Later, Kelly Pavlik would be fighting at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino along with several other Top Rank prospects.

My co-worker Katherine Rodriguez arrived the previous day and I picked her up around noon so we could visit Floyd Mayweather’s gym. She now writes for and for La Prensa newspaper. Very few people know boxing as well as she does. Her brother would be fighting later on Friday night. Katherine is a former boxer who once fought current US Olympian Marlen Esparza and placed third in the U.S. as a junior flyweight in 2008. She knows boxing.

We were hoping to meet Costa Rica’s Bryan Vazquez who is ranked number one in the world as a junior lightweight. When we arrived we saw several boxers but the only one we recognize is Celestino Caballero who currently holds the WBA featherweight world title.

Caballero is a funny guy. The nearly six-feet tall Panamanian is going to be 36 next week but looks more like 23. It’s probably his humor that keeps him looking young. He will be defending the WBA title against Riverside’s Mikey Garcia.

He’s a chatty guy who doesn’t mind working out while talking. He expects to beat Garcia because he feels that the former Oxnard prizefighter is not as strong as himself. The fight was supposed to take place in July at Fantasy Springs Casino but it’s postponed and reset for Sept. 7 in Las Vegas. Expect an explosive title fight.

We leave after 30 minutes and head back to the Hard Rock where we meet Las Vegas boxing trainer James Pena. He works with Melinda Cooper who many consider one of the top female prizefighters pound for pound. We discuss women’s boxing and also talk about some of the events scheduled later in the evening and on Saturday’s big fight card. Everybody agrees that Timothy Bradley has a good shot at beating Pacman. While we’re sitting at the table eating, at a table nearby two girls in bikinis are enjoying their drinks and meals too. One of the girls facing us has her top literally pop off. Everybody feigns shock and laughs. She laughs too and apologizes for the eruption. We cover our eyes in mock terror and laugh some more.

After lunch I head toward the arena called the Joint to grab my press credential. Katherine heads back to her room to change. While getting my credential I notice that the Hard Rock is super packed. I expect the arena to be filled considering the amount of people milling around.

I arrived early because scheduled to fight in the first bout is Riverside prospect Saul “Dinamita” Rodriguez. So far he’s knocked out all four opponents and none survived into minute two of round one. On this day he’ll face a kid who is taller and just as sturdy. They battle toe-to-toe evenly but it’s evident that Rodriguez has the better skills and better power. The other kid, Kevin Davila, backs off and resorts to different measures. Nothing really works and Rodriguez out-hits his opponent all four rounds. His work to the body tells the story. Those punches sound like they’re coming from a middleweight. Rodriguez is only 19 so I can imagine how much harder he’s going to hit in a few years. He’s being taught the finer points of boxing by Eduardo Garcia who taught both Fernando Vargas and Robert Garcia everything they know. He also trains Mikey Garcia in Riverside. Don Garcia is one of the best trainers in the world but few know this. He doesn’t work the corner during his son Mikey’s fights or during Saul Rodriguez’s fights. Instead it is Robert Garcia who works the corner though he doesn’t really train them. But he knows their tendencies and what they can do. The system works for them.

Another boxer performing that night was local hero Jesse Magdaleno. I had seen him fight a few times over the past few years but didn’t really take note of him. Not until I saw him fight on a boxing card in Pomona did I notice the improvement. He was sharper and more accurate, plus he was setting up opponents rather than overwhelming them. Against a kid named Nick Fast he was pinpoint and impressive. That fight prompted me to watch him again and against Puerto Rico’s Carlos Valcarcel he proved to be just as impressive again in a junior featherweight contest. Magdaleno ended the former Olympian’s night in 2:25 of the first round. He’s becoming a polished prospect.

Notre Dame football player Mike Lee fought on the card too against Mexico’s Eliseo Durazo. Lee has been refining his skills and has a good trainer in Ronnie Shields. The Mexican fighter Durazo has experience and used it in preventing Lee from overwhelming him throughout the fight. Lee won nearly every round and ended the fight with a barrage of punches. It was a little dangerous but he has the chin to take gambles like that every so often. His crowd arrived for the fight in force as usual and gave him great support.

The main event was Kelly Pavlik against Scott Sigmon in a super middleweight match. Pavlik has been training in Oxnard under Robert Garcia. It’s a good fit for the former middleweight champion and against Sigmon he was too powerful and too polished. Sigmon took a large amount of punishment. In my estimation, the fight should have been stopped around the fifth round. I’ve seen many fights in my experience including a dozen boxers die from punishment endured in the boxing ring. This was one of those moments where a fighter was just too tough for his own good. Pavlik was hitting the kid to the body and head with blows that would kill a steer. Sigmon took them all and returned very little. Finally the fight was stopped in round seven. Thankfully, the kid from Virginia was not hurt too bad.

After the long fight card I returned to my hotel to get some rest. Saturday would be a long day and every moment of rest is important.


Early Saturday I had to check out and gather my stuff. There were breakfast press conferences planned for WBA champ Gennady Golovkin who is set to fight WBO champ Dmitry Pirog in a battle of undefeated middleweight world titleholders on August 25. I can’t make the press conference but I hope to make their fight if its held in the West Coast. Golovkin is training in Big Bear mountain and that’s about an hour away from Riverside. I’ll be visiting him.

By the time I check out of my hotel, pick up fellow writer Katherine Rodriguez, grab my credential and a few other things it’s noon. We race to one of the breakfast press conferences where Andre Ward and Chad Dawson talk about their September date in Oakland. We catch about 15 minutes of the talking.

It’s about 1:30 so we head toward the media center tent outside of the arena. Photographer Al Applerose who works with me and Katherine is already inside. He rode in with German Villasenor who shoots for We all chat a bit about the fights from the previous night and what to expect from the big fight card.

The first bout begins around 3:15 and I go inside the arena that sits more than 16,000 and hear the introduction music to one of the fighters. There are probably only a few hundred people sitting at the moment. The first fight begins and ends very quickly.

Everyone knows what happened in the fights including the eruption of controversy regarding the decision in favor of Timothy Bradley. I’m tired of arguing about it especially when it really doesn’t matter any more. All I can say is that I felt it was a much closer fight than most people. Lots and lots of missed blows. Judge Jerry Roth is one of the best in the world and he had it a close fight in favor of Manny Pacquiao. He had it close and I agree it was close, but I think Bradley fought all three minutes of every round and Pacquiao only one minute of each round and paid for it. Bradley absolutely won more than a single round. Round two was definitely his as he battered Pacquiao with nearly a dozen blows while in a clinch. Whoever didn’t score that round for Bradley is definitely wrong. Another thing is CompuBox. They had Bradley with 21 connects in round nine. I easily counted 40 for Bradley in that round. Nobody is perfect, but using CompuBox for an argument is not scientific proof. It’s approximate proof.

After I posted my story I had many people tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Au contraire. I see more than 400 fights a year and I doubt if there are more than a dozen people in the world including judges that see that many fights live. The HBO crew definitely does not. I can tell you which judges like busy fighters, which like defense and which like actual scoring blows. I’ve seen them all judge fights for the past 20 years. Roth is one of the best. Roth, Pat Russell, and Max DeLuca are the three best judges in the world. They’re very consistent. Russell is absolutely the best referee in the world aside from being one of the best judges. There are several others including about three more from Nevada.

During the post fight press conference there were thousands of people milling around. I saw reporters from Mexico, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Philippines and from all over the U.S. One thing that always happens is whenever there is a decision in a big fight someone is going to get angry. Everyone thinks they’re correct.

All you hear is people crying and moaning “that’s what’s wrong about boxing.” It’s all become a cliché. Boxing has been this way for more than 100 years. The only time there is near satisfaction is a victory by knockout. MMA is the same thing. Knockouts and submissions are what only satisfy MMA fans too.

That’s just the way prizefighting is. A lot of people argue that it should be like basketball or soccer where there is a definite winner. Of course that would be great, but it’s impossible to do at the moment. Besides, NBA and soccer are filled with cheating. Every time you see a player flop that’s really cheating. Every time you see a guy double dribble or carry the ball that’s cheating. Soccer is horrible with its guys feigning injury near the goal so that they can get a free kick. Whenever I see a seven-foot NBA giant fall down when somebody touches him it makes me wince. I saw Derek Fisher just graze a center and he flopped as if he was hit by a Mack truck. It’s ridiculous. I can’t watch it. It’s become a sissy sport. So has soccer.

Well enough of that. I feel better now.

After about 45 minutes Katherine Rodriguez and her family joined me on the ride home around midnight. Three hours later we were back in Riverside. The roads were rather clear without the EDC minions riding about.

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



new television

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



experienced opponent

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

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



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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