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A Master-Class From Orlando Canizales



He may have been overshadowed by the likes of Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker, but throughout the late eighties and early nineties, former bantamweight kingpin Orlando Canizales was one of the world’s best fighters and, in this writer’s opinion, is one of the most underappreciated technicians of all time. At his best, Canizales’ level of skill and technique were truly breathtaking. Here, I’d like to take a brief look at some of his technical intricacies that led to him becoming one of my favorite fighters to study and enjoy watching on film.

It should be noted that although I will be dividing this analysis into specific categories (counterpunching, combination punching, angles, etc.) some of the examples I’ll be using here are actually broad enough to fall under another category.


Quite simply, Orlando Canizales was the epitome of a defensive-offensive fighter and nowhere was this more apparent than in his counterpunching ability. A master of parrying and countering, evading and countering and also simultaneously evading and countering, Canizales was highly proficient in drawing out an opponent’s attack and taking advantage of the resulting opening.

Orlando Canizales

By placing his rear hand by the side of his head and away from his chin, Canizales has presented his opponent with an illusionary target (1st still). Taking the bait, his opponent throws a jab, only for Canizales to parry it down using his rear hand. Next, as his opponent steps in with a straight right, Canizales slips outside the blow (elbow side) and counters with a left hook to the body, sending his opponent to the canvas. By avoiding the right hand in this way –allowing the right hand to sail over the right shoulder—Canizales not only took away both of his opponent’s hands, but also created a perfect opening for a left hook to the body. This is counterpunching at its finest.

canizales 44 1 2013Here’s Canizales fading and countering with a right cross as his opponent’s jab is travelling back home. Notice how Canizales’ rear heel is raised. This does three things. 1) It allows him to sway his upper body back without having to move his feet, 2) allows him to push off his rear foot, giving him greater drive in transferring his body weight back onto his front foot as he’s throwing the cross, 3) it gives his opponent a false sense of range.

Orlando CanizalesIn this sequence, Canizales dips low, slips outside of his opponent’s jab, and counters with a sharp right cross. What I really like about this sequence in particular, is the way in which Canizales weaves out to his right after landing his counter right hand. Regardless of the fact that his opponent is kind of flailing with his counter left after being tagged, what this sequence shows is just how defensively responsible Canizales was immediately after punching. This is something Amir Khan should make special note of.

Orlando CanizalesHere, using his rear hand, Canizales parries his opponent’s jab to the inside and counters with a double jab-right cross combination. Although the jabs of Canizales didn’t land with any real authority, they still did their job –forcing the opponent to back up in a straight line and to set up the more damaging, final blow of the combination, the right hand.

Let’s take one final look at Canizales’ superior counterpunching.

Orlando CanizalesHere’s an example of Canizales using footwork and deception to induce his opponent into reacting in a certain way. First, Canizales feints with a slight level change (2nd still) before taking a half-step back (3rd still). As Canizales comes forward (4th still) and repeats the level change (5th still), his opponent reacts, opening himself up for a counter right hand in the process. By luring his opponent into committing an offensive action, Canizales created a clear path for his right hand. Again, this is elite-level counterpunching.


If a fighter can continually gain entry without being hit by his/her opponent in the process, chances of victory will increase considerably. Using feints, anticipatory upper body movement and imaginative footwork, Canizales was capable of breeching his opponent’s range almost at will.

canizales 44 5 2013Stepping in from the outside, Canizales dips low and feints with a jab. As his opponent attempts to parry the perceived low jab, Canizales counters up top with a right cross, then exits off of the original line of engagement. As I mentioned earlier, although I’m using this sequence as an example of Canizales’ ability to enter into range without being hit, this could also be seen as an example of Canizales’ counterpunching aptitude –feinting with the low jab to draw a rear hand parry, which in turn, leaves an opening for a right cross.

canizales 44 6 2013Again, Canizales is looking to enter from the outside. Up on his toes, Canizales suddenly drops low (giving his opponent the impression that he is indeed going to attack low) before connecting up top with a stepping-in overhand right. Notice how Canizales has taken his head away from the centerline as he connects. Should his opponent have attempted a counter, or indeed, decided to punch with Canizales during the attack, he would likely have missed due to Canizales’ superior positioning and his lack thereof.

Here’s another example of the same concept.

Rolando CanizalesIn this sequence, both Canizales and his opponent launch their attack simultaneously. Most of the time, a jab (boxing’s longest and most direct weapon) will reach its target well before any looping or arcing punch will. However, by taking his head away from the centerline, Canizales connects and forces his opponent, whose head remains static and upright, to miss.

Guard manipulation

In boxing, basic techniques will not land with any regularity unless a fighter can do something which forces the opponent to present them with openings. We’ve already talked about baiting an opponent into opening up by using feints and evasive maneuvers like slipping, but yet another way to do this is by hitting the gloves of an opponent from an angle (from the inside to the outside or vice versa) so as to, for a split second, create a small opening in which to land something worthwhile. Needless to say, Canizales had this technique down pat too.

canizales 44 8 2013Here, Canizales slaps his opponent’s lead glove to the inside, so as to create an opening for his own lead hand. Similarly to a rear hand parry, Canizales uses his rear hand to remove his opponent’s lead hand (opposite hand, but same side). The difference between this and a regular parry, however, is that Canizales is not actually trying to block or deflect an incoming shot. Rather, he’s trying to create an opening by removing his opponent’s guard.

Below, we have another example of Canizales manipulating his opponent’s guard.

Orlando Canizales

In this sequence, Canizales fires his left hand upwards, knocking his opponent’s rear glove out of the way. With his opponent’s defensive guard severely compromised, Canizales fires in two more blows –a right cross and a left hook to the body (although not shown in the still, the latter blow from Canizales dropped his opponent).


One of the main aims for any fighter should be to acquire a dominant angle of attack over their opponent. A fighter will always have the advantage if they are able to take up a position from which they can hit their opponent but their opponent is out of position to hit them back effectively. Using masterful footwork that, quite frankly, ranks among the best I’ve seen in a boxing ring, Canizales was simply brilliant at taking himself off of the original line of attack before blindsiding his opponents from a different angle.

canizales 44 10 2013

As Canizales looks to enter, he performs an outside slip, simultaneously parrying his opponent’s lead to the inside. In doing so, Canizales steps through, bringing his rear leg forward and to the outside of his opponent, securing a dominant angle from which to attack him from. As his opponent turns to face him, Canizales connects with a left hook.

Orlando CanizalesBoth fighters are looking to engage at close quarters. Suddenly, Canizales skips to his right, transfers his weight back over onto his left leg, and lands a left hook. Notice how Canizales’ opponent’s hips are pointing away from Canizales (3rd still), whereas Canizales’ hips are locked on his opponent. As far as fighting from an angle goes, this is just about as good as it gets.

Here is Canizales angling off his rear uppercut.

canizales 44 12 2013As Canizales steps in and lands a rear uppercut, he follows through with his rear leg (his right leg now replaces his left leg as his lead until he turns back the other way) and pivots his upper body back toward his opponent. This gives Canizales the superior outside position and allows him to hit his opponent with a left hook while his opponent is in no position to hit him back effectively without having to turn and face him.

canizales 44 13 2013

With his back to the ropes, Canizales angles off his right hand (side-stepping to his right) then transfers his weight back over onto his left leg. In this more advantageous position, Canizales can throw a left uppercut followed by a right cross, just as his opponent is turning to face him.

Combination punching

Along with the likes of Joe Louis, Ray Robinson, Jose Napoles, Julio Cesar Chavez and Juan Manuel Marquez, I consider Orlando Canizales to be one of the finest practitioners of combination punching that I’ve seen (yes, I believe he was that good at it). Sure, others have hit with more power, and others may have rallied off their combinations with more speed, but in terms of economy of motion, directness, allowing each punch to flow naturally into the next and the thought process behind each punch, Canizales was one of the best.

Rather than use stills as I’ve done throughout this piece, I thought it would be better to finish off this analysis by highlighting Canizales’ combination punching using a fantastic highlight package by ZeffieTowers2. Although his combination punching features prominently throughout the video, the best examples of it (particularly punching around an opponent’s guard and varying the beat between punches), take place somewhere around the 4:08 mark. In fact, the video will also give you a clearer understanding of his tempo changes, sudden shifts and explosiveness, all of which are nigh on impossible to do justice using stills alone.

So there you have it. My thoughts on one of the most underrated craftsman that boxing’s ever seen. All that’s left to do now is to sit back, and enjoy a master technician at work.



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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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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th



UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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