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The Raskin Running Diary Returns! The Brooklyn Quadrupleheader (Part I)

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006 Alexander vs Bailey Alexander got the W. Maybe next time it will be in a more enjoyable manner. (Tom Casino)

On Saturday night, “world championship” boxing returned to Brooklyn for the first time in 81 years. What better way to celebrate the occasion than with the running diary returning to TheSweetScience.com for the first time in 53 weeks? Much has changed since the last time I busted out this column device. Entering the previous running diary, Bernard Hopkins was light heavyweight champion of the world and had never once been bodyslammed by Chad Dawson. Showtime wasn’t yet airing quadrupleheaders with regularity or showing undercard bouts on Showtime Extreme, so running diaries were pretty much limited to pay-per-view cards. Bill Dettloff’s dog, Duva, the scene-stealing star of the Hopkins-Dawson I PPV Diary, was still alive. (Pour one out.) And boxing didn’t have a PED problem. At least as far as we knew.

This running diary will be different than past installments in that I was not part of a gathering of boxing writers, so there will be no sidebar breakdowns of our sidebar conversations. However, the Showtime Extreme portion of the broadcast began at 7 p.m. ET, which meant that I was joined for a few minutes by my daughter and son before they headed up to bed. I also had my dog, Rodney, and my brother-in-law’s dog, Gertie, to keep me company. But as far as observations for the running diary go, it’s just me and anyone who wrote something diary-worthy on Twitter.

Disclaimer: I’m one year older than Erik Morales, so no promises that I’m not completely shot as a running-diary writer. But here goes nuthin’ with the first installment of a two-part look back at Saturday night’s festivities from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn:

7:02 p.m. ET: What a joy to have Brian Kenny back in my life. I’m aware that he could theoretically be in my life regularly if I watched MLB Network, but since the 2012 baseball season never happened (I’m a Phillies fan; as far as I’m concerned this was just a really long exhibition season in preparation for 2013), the addition of Kenny to the Showtime crew as the host/director of traffic is an automatic highlight of the night. For his first order of business, BK notes that the main Showtime broadcast starts at 8 p.m., which makes me thankful I didn’t go out for the evening and trust my DVR, since my cable guide thought the show started at 9. It also means I have a shot, theoretically, at getting to bed before midnight, provided we see some knockouts.

7:03: Kenny sends it down to the Showtime Extreme team of Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood, whose cheerful camaraderie and soothing, non-idiotic voices make watching boxing as relaxing as a bath in warm buttermilk. (Am I showing my running-diary rust with that analogy? Let’s move along.)

7:05: The lone live fight on Showtime Extreme will be the return of Danny Jacobs following his battle with cancer, and we start with a video vignette on him. Here’s a not-at-all-loaded question for everyone to discuss: Who’s gotten more press the last two weeks, Jacobs or Orlando Cruz?

7:06: When a guy is coming back from cancer, it’s wholly inappropriate to make trivial jokes in a running-diary column about his godmother borrowing her hairstyle from Carrot Top. So I won’t.

7:10: Farhood tells us that Jacobs’ opponent, Josh Luteran, goes by the nickname “The Existential Outlaw” and is also an actor in Hollywood. His IMDB page suggests he’s probably doing better as a boxer. Luteran’s nose is definitely more “boxer” than “actor”; that thing has more unwanted twists and turns than a season of The Killing.

7:15: A sizzling left-right combination from Jacobs renders Luteran non-existent(ial) at 1:13 of the first round. Suddenly, regardless of his sparsely populated IMDB page, it’s looking like Luteran’s future lies in acting. Meanwhile, nice win for Jacobs. Luteran wasn’t much, but Jacobs destroyed him following an 19-month layoff and showed, as best he could in 73 seconds, the talent that once made him one of boxing’s hottest prospects.

7:22: As I enjoy some Eddie Gomez-Saul Benitez highlights from earlier on the undercard, my wife, who is getting the kids ready for bed, reports that my son sat on the potty for five minutes, produced nothing, and promptly got off the toilet and peed on the rug in his room. I’d love to help clean up, but I have boxing to watch.

7:28: We get our first USADA mention of the night from BK, as he welcomes Al Bernstein and Austin Trout to the broadcast desk to help him stall for time and discuss the upcoming main event. Not included among the topics of discussion: how apparently it’s okay for a boxer to fight on Showtime after failing a PED test, but it’s not okay for a boxer to provide color commentary on Showtime after failing a PED test. Remember Antonio Tarver? Tonight, he’ll be watching from home while Erik Morales is permitted to try to punch a man after two positive drug tests leading up to the fight. Hmmm.

7:32: With no more undercard bouts to broadcast, Showtime Extreme signs off early. Now I have no excuse not to help put the kids to bed.

7:50: My daughter convinces me to put on the adult-size red flannel footie pajamas that my wife got me as a semi-joke gift several years ago, so this will be my attire for the remainder of the running diary. There’s something I wouldn’t be able to do on press row. Take that, all you suckers who are ringside in Brooklyn tonight.

7:59: As I settle back onto the couch for the main event, Showtime airs an ad for Jim Rome’s new show. We can only hope the show will be half as clever as the “balls” joke in the commercial. (Get it? He said the show would have balls, and then all manner of baseballs, footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls fell from the ceiling! Ingenious!)

8:02: Speaking of Showtime programming, before the fights begin we’re treated to ads for Dexter and Homeland. My quick (pretty much spoiler-free) thoughts on each show: I’m not convinced yet that Dexter has recaptured its mojo following an overdue shakeup to the Dexter-Deb dynamic at the conclusion of last season. Season Seven is certainly better thus far than Season Six was, but I have my doubts about whether it can ever become a first-rate show again. Meanwhile, I’m thoroughly enjoying the second season of Homeland, even if “realistic” is a word that’s apparently been banned from the writers’ room. Did it deserve to beat out Breaking Bad and Mad Men for the Emmy? Of course not. But it’s definitely the cream of the Sunday night drama crop this fall.

8:06: Okay, back to boxing! Kenny is sharing the desk with Bernstein, Trout, and Tompkins—turns out Barry is working the whole card because play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo is out sick. Nothing against Mauro, but I love me some Barry Tompkins and he’s always had good chemistry with Bernstein, so this is a fine development.

8:10: Bernstein asks the million-dollar question (literally) about Danny Garcia’s decision to go through with the fight. I’ve sat in slack-jawed amazement all day at the tweets and articles buying into the notion that, as of Friday night, Garcia was planning to pull out of the fight because of Morales’ failed USADA tests. I don’t believe for one second that Garcia considered cancelling the fight. He’d gone through a two-month training camp and was going to collect $1-million to fight an aging opponent he’d already beaten handily seven months earlier, and you expect me to trust some “unnamed sources” who said he was this close to pulling out? Sorry, but that’s some flimsy logic. Maybe the New York commission considered putting the kibosh on this fight. But no way did Garcia consider it.

8:16: Randall Bailey is in the ring, wearing a blue mask that makes him look like one of the Spy vs. Spy guys with shark teeth. Also in the ring: Arthur Mercante Jr. Much as I love having big-time boxing in New York, there is always that one unfortunate little string attached.

8:20: I know Philly sports fans own the reputation as the most negative fans around, but the Brooklyn crowd didn’t make it halfway through the first round of Bailey vs. Devon Alexander before the boos began! Really? They’re not allowed to feel each other out and take a tactical approach for 90 seconds?

8:24: In the second round, Bailey lands a head-clash-right-hand combination that knocks Alexander off balance, and with Alexander generally standing in range for Bailey’s punches, we have some (false) hope for drama in this bout.

8:27: Alexander lands a nice right hand of his own in the third round, and Mercante promptly steps in to make certain there’s no discernable flow to the fight and no sustained action. Moments later, Trout makes a good observation that Alexander’s wide stance makes it hard for him to turn fluidly in the ring.

8:33: Bernstein calls Bailey “the Dave Kingman of boxing,” and the 27-year-old Trout admits he doesn’t know who Dave Kingman is, which gives everyone a good chuckle. Call me crazy, but there’s some decent chemistry developing here. It’s around this point that I remember: Isn’t Joe Cortez supposed to be a part of this broadcast team? We haven’t heard from him yet, and if it turns out he’s not there and Kenny, Tompkins, Bernstein, and Trout are all going to do a good job behind their respective microphones, then who the hell am I going to mock in this running diary? Speaking of Cortez, he’s the subject of one of the “over/under” questions for the latest episode of Ring Theory: How many indecipherable words will he utter on the broadcast? I set the line at 11, Dettloff took the under. Also, Bill has under 37 rounds for the four main fights combined, and under 8,500 in paid attendance.

8:39: Another useful observation by Trout, who notes that Alexander is now keeping his left hand tight to his chin in round six after eating a couple of big right hands in round five.

8:40: Alexander accidentally hits Mercante with a left hand. I have a new favorite fighter.

8:41: Mercante takes a point from both fighters for holding in the sixth. Allow me to quote myself via Twitter: “Mercante: ‘These fighters think they’re the show! I’ll show them who’s the show!’”

8:42: Hey, Joe Cortez is here after all! He weighs in on Mercante’s dual point deductions. I think I just hit the over on 11 slurred words.

8:49: After Mercante tells Alexander to stop spinning his opponent, Trout notes, “I didn’t think that was illegal, that’s good footwork in my opinion.” I’m liking this Trout character so far.

9:00: As the boos rain down in Brooklyn and an ugly fight shows no signs of getting less ugly, we get these three enjoyable tweets in the span of a few seconds. First, from @therealFOL: “I would rather watch Joe Cortez make a sandwich.” Second, from @HansLanda0351: “I can never tell if Alexander is feinting or epileptic.” And third, from my podcast partner @WilliamDettloff: “In about six hours Bailey’s going to land the right he’s been waiting to land all night and his poor wife will be KTFO.”

9:04: There are just two minutes left in the fight. Which means Bailey, hopelessly behind on points, has two minutes to make Mike Jones feel less awful about himself. (Yes, I stole my own Twitter joke. And you know what? I might do that a few more times before this running diary is through. Deal with it.)

9:06: The fight ends, and Trout says Alexander fought a “great” fight. Bernstein objects and says it was “effective,” not “great,” and Trout more or less concedes. The crowd, meanwhile, can’t stop booing. Three more fights like that one, and we’re watching the last boxing card ever at the Barclays Center.

9:07: Nice addition to the negativity surrounding the fight from good ol’ @HansLanda0351: “The next basement dweller who claims alphabet titles are a good thing should be forced to watch this fight on a loop until they die.”

9:09: Jimmy Lennon Jr. announces the unanimous decision in Alexander’s favor, by scores of 115-111, 116-110, and 117-109. I’m now pouring myself a bowl of cereal—another reason my living room beats press row.

9:16: Jim Gray is in the dressing room conducting prefight interviews, and he asks Garcia, “When you woke up this morning, was there a question in your mind as to whether or not there would be a fight?” Garcia responds, “I mean, it was up to the New York Athletic Commission, they said it was cool, so it’s cool with me.” Anyone still trust the sources who said Garcia was planning to give up his million-dollar payday and pull out?

9:28: Peter Quillin vs. Hassan N’Dam is underway, and we’re seeing better action in the opening round than we saw at any point during Alexander-Bailey. N’Dam lands a left, and Quillin comes right back with a superior right hand to the chin. Maybe we aren’t watching the last fight card at Barclays after all.

9:30: Between rounds one and two, Mike Tyson is shown on the big screen in Brooklyn, pulling off the rarely seen facial-tattoo/white-turtleneck combination, and he gets a massive standing ovation from the crowd. It’s hard to believe Mike Tyson has survived long enough to reach this point in his life, that he’s matured gracefully into “beloved icon” status, but here he is. What a wonderful moment.

9:38: With N’Dam generally having gotten the better of the entertaining first three rounds, local favorite Quillin fights back with a left uppercut that staggers the Cameroonian at the start of round four. Quillin follows up, and a leaping left hook drops N’Dam! He seems okay as he gets up, but Quillin has two minutes left in the round to finish him.

9:39: Another hook almost floors N’Dam, then a perfect one drops him with 40 seconds left in the round. Two slips, however, help N’Dam run out the clock. Tyson is shown standing, applauding, and smiling wide at ringside.

9:47: As much as I enjoyed Trout’s analysis throughout the Alexander-Bailey fight, he’s starting to make me feel sleepy now. Can Showtime find a boxer/broadcaster whose energy level lands somewhere between the excessive exuberance of Paulie Malignaggi and the check-his-pulse monotone of Trout? Oh, right. They did. His name was Antonio Tarver.

9:48: Just as N’Dam seems to be righting the ship, Quillin decks with him another hook with about a minute to go in round six. N’Dam stumbles down again following a combination, meaning he’s now been knocked down four times in total.

9:52: N’Dam, still plenty game, lands a serious counter left hook in the seventh and gets me thinking Quillin just might regret not finishing him off in either the fourth or sixth rounds.

10:00: We’re treating to some tremendous action in the ninth, as Quillin absorbs several hard shots along the ropes and fires back.

10:10: Entering the final round, N’Dam seems to have pulled just about even. I’m pretty sure there’s no precedent for a fighter winning a decision in the other guy’s hometown despite a 4-0 deficit in knockdowns.

10:13: Quillin guarantees that N’Dam won’t be winning that decision (actually, it was already guaranteed; more on that in a moment) by flooring him for the fifth and sixth times in the contest in the final 25 seconds of round 12. It’s a delightfully dramatic finish to a fight that has fully erased the stink of the bout that preceded it.

10:17: All three judges score it 115-107 for Quillin, which seems a bit wide, but oh well, he is a New Yorker and it’s not like it was impossible to find seven rounds to give to “Kid Chocolate.” Not worth kicking up a fuss over. But it would have been if N’Dam had dominated round 12 and still lost unanimously.

10:25: BK interviews Danny Jacobs, and Jacobs commits one of my sports-interview pet peeves, declaring himself to be at “150 percent.” Then again, he’s probably at about 15,000 percent of what he was in 2011. So I’m going to let a recent cancer survivor slide on this one.

10:28: TSS editor Mike Woods tweets “[Richard] Schaefer says he is looking at January date and then feb back here, something ‘historic’. Hmmm.” Hey, Woodsy, how can you be certain he was spelling it “historic” and not “hystoric”?

And with that harmless little swipe at my dear friends at Golden Boy Promotions, I’ll wrap up Part I of the running diary. Come back tomorrow for Part II, covering the Malignaggi-Cano and Garcia-Morales fights. And don’t forget your red flannel adult footies.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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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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