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Solving “The Problem”

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BronerPerez Hogan68This Saturday, one of boxing’s most prodigious talents, Adrien Broner {24-0 with 20 Kos} will be stepping u to 135 pounds for the very first time {at least officially} when he meets tough Mexican Antonio DeMarco {28-1-2 with 21 KOS} at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

While the bout is no forgone conclusion -DeMarco is certainly no walk in the park- the general feeling among most boxing people is that Adrien Broner will have too much speed and skill for the tough but limited Tony DeMarco to handle.

With this in mind then, I thought I’d take this time to dissect Adrien Broner’s signature technique, the shoulder roll, and highlight how Tony DeMarco could possibly take advantage of it in any way.

Getting beyond the shoulder

Even at this early stage in his career, Adrien Broner is already one of the best defensive fighters in professional boxing. One of the ways he remains so elusive during a fight is because of the way he uses his shoulder to defend himself. The shoulder roll is the foundation of Broner’s game.

Here’s a quick look at the type of defense we’re going to be looking at.

Demarco vs Broner

Broner defends using the same shoulder roll defense as the likes of James Toney and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Standing side on to his opponent, Broner’s left shoulder is raised and slightly turned in so that it’s guarding his chin. His left elbow is pushed out slightly so that his forearms are protecting his lower left side, and his right glove is positioned by his chin so that his right elbow is covering his lower right side. This defense is excellent for deflecting punches using the shoulders, arms and elbows by rolling in the same direction with the punch. It’s also useful for creating angles to counter back from.

One of the best examples of Adrien Broner effectively using his shoulder roll defense came against Vicente Escobedo during his last fight.

Demarco vs Broner

Vicente Escobedo’s applying pressure in close. Notice as he’s trying to land a left hook to the body followed by a right hook up stairs, how Broner rolls and avoids the attack -blocking Escobedo’s left hook by jamming his right arm into the shot, and Escobedo’s right hook by using his left elbow to intercept the shot as it’s coming over the top. This defense blunts wide punches in close easily.

Demarco vs Broner

Escobedo is standing right in front of Broner. As he tries to land a left/right combination, Broner picks both shots off effortlessly using his elbows. Again, Escobedo’s shots are coming in wide and are easy to track.

 Demarco vs Broner

Once more, Escobedo tries to land a left/right, and once more, Broner evades both shots by using his right elbow and lead shoulder to block and roll with the punches.

Here’s Vicente Escobedo trying to mount some offense without success and this time, being countered for his troubles.

Demarco Vs Broner

Escobedo finds himself standing right in front of Broner with his back up against the ropes. As Escobedo pushes forward in an attempt to land a left hook to the body, Broner places his right glove on the back of Escobedo’s neck and pushes down. Using Escobedo’s neck for leverage, Broner comes back with a short left cross in close, before blocking a right hook to the body by jamming his left shoulder and elbow into the shot. In this position, Broner uses his left elbow to push Escobedo off and create room for a counter right uppercut through the center.

This sequence shows how comfortable Broner is defending inside the pocket.

Demarco vs Broner

Notice as Escobedo throws a jab, Broner sees it coming and performs an inside parry, knocking Escobedo’s lead hand down. Escobedo then follows up with a right and left hook towards the body, but Broner, always relaxed on the inside, intercepts both shots easily using his left elbow to block the right, and right elbow to block the left.

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Look how Escobedo is attacking Broner the same way over and over. As Escobedo comes in with another left hook/right hook combination, Broner doesn’t even have to adjust his guard. Because Escobedo’s shots are coming in wide, Broner knows he can catch them on his gloves and shoulders by simply rotating his hips. Notice how Broner’s chin is hidden behind his lead shoulder and right glove at all times.

demarcovsBroner11162012 8

Here’s Broner hiding behind his shoulder, this time, disguising his offense. As he pushes Escobedo towards the ropes, notice how Broner is still in a defensive position {chin protected by his lead shoulder and right glove} but he’s also in position to land a right uppercut, or, as he does in this scenario, use his left arm to separate himself from Escobedo in order to land a right hook to the side of Escobedo’s body, underneath Escobedo’s high guard.

By looking at the sequences above, it’s doesn’t take long to realize that Adrien Broner is a very skilled individual. It doesn’t take long to come away with the conclusion that all of Vicente Escobedo’s attacks were too predictable either. Escobedo was never going to take Broner by surprise by standing right in front of him without the using any feints, a change of angle or any creativity prior to launching an attack. Every single Escobedo assault consisted of him attacking in a straight line, throwing nothing but wide left/right combinations. No fighter is going to get beyond Broner by simply pushing forward, hoping to get inside and rough him up. As I’ve already mentioned, I believe Broner’s shoulder roll defense is the perfect foil for neutralizing wide shots on the inside. Once a fighter gets too close to Broner, it’s nigh on impossible for them to throw anything other than wide punches. Broner is very good at eliminating his opponent’s attacking options. By covering up and looking vulnerable, he manipulates his opponents into thinking they will have more success by jumping in and swarming all over him, as opposed to standing off and boxing him.

In March of 2011, Adrien Broner won a hotly disputed decision over rugged veteran, Daniel Ponce De Leon. As I’m sure you’re all aware, De Leon is far from an elite level fighter. He’s not the fastest, not the most athletic nor is he the most technically gifted, and yet he was able to fight on even terms with Adrien Broner for 12 rounds because of a well laid out game plan.

So what was Daniel Ponce De Leon able to do against Adrien Broner that Vicente Escobedo could not?

Movement

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It’s immediately apparent here, that Ponce De Leon is using more of the ring than what Vicente Escobedo did during his fight with Broner. Whereas Escobedo was always right in front of Broner, peeking out beyond his earmuff guard and his feet in line with his shoulders, De Leon is moving laterally, side to side and giving Broner lots of different looks. Moving in this way doesn’t allow Broner to plant his feet and set himself –crucial elements that are required in order for the shoulder defense to be effective.

Feinting

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Notice how De Leon comes in with a foot feint and instantly causes Broner to react. De Leon hasn’t even thrown a punch yet, but he’s managed to do something to Broner that Escobedo couldn’t, and that’s put Broner on to his back foot.

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Notice how Ponce De Leon makes Broner reluctant to throw by feinting him. As De Leon takes a step forward, Broner reacts and leans away. As Broner resets, De Leon steps in again and causes Broner to react again. Feinting in this way disrupts an opponent’s rhythm. Broner is at his best when he’s dictating things -using his slick skills to control the inside action or keeping his opponent occupied with the jab. Broner is too busy thinking about De Leon’s sudden sporadic bursts to do either in this instance. I also want you take another look at Broner’s feet as Ponce De Leon is stepping in. Notice how Broner never really takes a step back. Instead, he relies on nothing but upper body movement to avoid an attack.

Using southpaw angles effectively

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De Leon is not the quickest of fighters by any stretch of the imagination, but because he has a clear understanding of angles, he’s able to attack where Broner’s at his most vulnerable –in a position where he’s unable to defend and counter with maximum effect. See how De Leon has stepped inside of Broner’s lead shoulder in order to land his lead hand, as opposed to attacking from outside of it as Escobedo did. Broner’s defense is ineffective if the attack is travelling inside of his lead shoulder.

demarcovsBroner11162012 14

Once again, De Leon has managed to get a dominant angle on Broner. As Broner jabs, De Leon ducks under it before landing his trailing to the body. Notice how as De Leon steps in, he’s successful in getting his lead foot outside of Broner’s.

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It’s the same story again in this sequence. As Ponce De Leon steps forward, Broner is rooted to the spot. Because Broner defends primarily by planting his feet and using upper body movement, as opposed to moving away to avoid an attack, De Leon can gain the outside position and land his trailing hands to Broner’s body by stepping outside of him. A simple step back may have shut down Ponce De Leon’s charge.

Mixing up the target with the one-two

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Here, Ponce De Leon is drifting left before falling in with an overhand left. Notice how De Leon throws a range finding right before throwing the left. Doing this forces Broner into opening up with a right hand. Believing this was De Leon’s primary attack, Broner left himself available for the left hand over the top. It’s yet another unpredictable, but brilliant strategical attack from Ponce De Leon –drifting left, inside of Broner’s lead shoulder, before attacking in an unpredictable manner, using relatively straight shots as opposed to the wider, easier to read shots of Escobedo.

And another…

demarcovsBroner11162012 17  

De Leon is successful using the same strategy here as well. Only this time, he alternates the target by going to the body instead. Again, Ponce De Leon comes in from the outside and throws a range finding lead right hand before dropping a left hook into Broner’s stomach.

As you can see, there were vast differences between the ways in which Vicente Escobedo and Daniel Ponce De Leon went about their business with Adrien Broner.

Although there was an obvious weight issue when they fought, Vicente Escobedo would have had very little success against Adrien Broner, regardless of weight because;

  • He lacked creativity on offense

  • Showed little to no lateral movement

  • Attacked and backed up in straight lines

  • Remained stationary and in front of Broner for the duration of the fight

  • Continued to throw punches outside of Broner’s lead shoulder.

  • Couldn’t avoid the pocket

  • Threw wide, telegraphed, looping punches

On the other hand, Daniel Ponce De Leon had a lot of success against Adrien Broner because;

  • He used plenty of lateral movement

  • Used his southpaw stance to its full affect {angles}

  • Mixed up his punches, high and low

  • Used feints

  • Avoided the inside for long periods of the fight

  • Used an unpredictable” in and out” strategy

  • Threw straight punches

So what can Tony DeMarco take from both of these fights?

Although common perception says that a defensive counter puncher is susceptible to volume and pressure, I believe that an inside fight here would favor Adrien Broner. Besides, not everyone is able to maintain the same kind of frenetic pace that Abner Mares produced against Anselmo Moreno last weekend.

No, in my view, Tony DeMarco should avoid getting too close to Broner. From mid to long range, there are multiple offensive weapons and angles to choose from. Once inside, however, such is the way that Broner positions himself in relation to his opponent, there are only a few attacking options available, primarily a right or a left hook. When most people look at a fighter like Broner, they assume his defensive skills are a result of God-given perception, when really, it’s down to visual clarity amid heavy fire and the probability of an opponent’s attack. When Broner is defending, his eyes are wide open and he sees everything that’s going on. If an opponent is right up on top of him, then rest assured, he knows that all he needs to look out for are the shots that he’s given his opponent permission to throw, so to speak. It’s all about anticipation. Vicente Escobedo continued to put himself in a position where he could throw nothing but wide hooks around the sides of Broner’s guard. Broner knew this and allowed Escobedo to throw wide shots at his arms, shoulders and elbows, before systematically breaking him down.

I believe DeMarco would be well advised to take a leaf out of Ponce De Leon’s book by using plenty of movement combined with feints, sporadic attacks and straight punching, and also by moving to Broner’s right, and attacking inside of his lead shoulder.

Even though Broner eventually went on to win the fight, he never quite came to terms with what Ponce De Leon was doing to him. DeMarco is an intelligent, gutsy, bigger and probably a quicker fighter than Ponce De Leon. Oh, and he’s got those southpaw angles on his side too.

However, saying what someone could or should do and what someone can do are two very different things entirely. Things look a lot differently in the heat of the battle and I have a funny feeling that Adrien Broner has improved a lot since his struggle with Daniel Ponce De Leon.

If I was a gambling man, I’d say Broner will be too fast and too skilled for DeMarco . I can’t get the vision of Jorge Linares boxing circles round DeMarco before he was eventually cut up and stopped. Simply put, Adrien Broner is bigger, faster and stronger than Linares. He’s also much better defensively and has way more punching power than Jorge Linares too. The more I think about it, the more I can envision Broner taking DeMarco out before the final bell. I sense we haven’t seen the best of Adrien Broner just yet. Maybe this Saturday we get to see something special from a potentially very special fighter.

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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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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 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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