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HAUSER: Zab Judah Comes Up Short Again



On November 3, 2001, Zab Judah fought Kostya Tszyu in a much-anticipated 140-pound title-unification bout.

Judah had turned pro in 1996 as an 18-year-old phenom with sparkling amateur credentials. He was 27-and-0 in the pay ranks with six title-fight victories and ranked in the top ten on most pound-for-pound lists. Power, speed, boxing savvy; Zab had it all. Some experts likened him to Pernell Whitaker, only Judah had more power.

“If you come down to 140 pounds, I’ll knock you out,” Zab told his friend, Mike Tyson.

Tszyu had some impressive victories on his ledger, but he’d been stopped by Vince Phillips. The assumption was that Judah would be too much for him.

A few fighters at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn where Zab trained had a contrary view. Local boxers tend to support and believe in their own. But Judah was flawed, those fighters said. When he got hit hard in sparring, he spent the rest of the session on the run. Not just that one round, the entire session.

Sugar Ray Robinson was once asked what he liked least about boxing.

“Getting hit,” the greatest fighter of all time answered.

That said, fighters get hit. It’s how they respond that separates legends from also-rans.

“Tszyu will hit Zab with something hard,” those fighters at Gleason’s said. “And when that happens, the fight will turn.”

Judah dominated round one. Then, in round two, Kostya hit him with “something hard” and knocked Zab out.

In the eleven years since then, Judah’s record has been 15-and-8 with one no contest. During that time, he has lost eight of thirteen title bouts and been a poster boy for unfulfilled potential. When people think of Zab, they’re more likely to think of his defeats at the hands of Tszyu, Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Carlos Baldomir, and Amir Khan than his victory over Junior Witter. He has signature losses, not signature triumphs.

Judah is no longer fighting for greatness. He’s fighting for money. He’s 35 years old, and boxing is the only job he has ever known.

“I wish things had happened a little different,” Zab said last year. “But we can’t change the past.”

Zab’s latest “last chance” to regain a lofty standing in the boxing community came on April 27th against Danny Garcia at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Garcia, a Philadelphia native, came into the bout with a 25-and-0 record and a trio of 140-pound belts. He also brought his father, Angel, who has graduated from provocateur to embarrassment.

Angel, who trains his son, has a penchant for making racist comments and engaging in other unsportsmanlike conduct. He shoots his mouth off, and Danny has to back it up.

The low point of the December 1, 2012, kick-off press conference for Garcia-Judah was an ugly pushing and shouting match that ensued when Angel told the assembled media, “Every time Zab has stepped up, he lost. I figure this will go four or five rounds because he’s a four-round fighter.”

Zab, as expected, took exception.

There were more pre-fight confrontations at various promotional events leading up to the final pre-fight press conference at Barclays Center on April 25th. Then things turned bizarre.

The press conference was scheduled for 1:00 PM and began with the undercard fighters. Contrary to the norm, no one from the Garcia or Judah camps was on the dais. Once the undercard fighters had their say, the dais was cleared and Danny Garcia came out with his father.

“I’m going to take Zab into deep water, drown him, and beat the s–t out of him,” Danny proclaimed.

Angel kept saying, “This is bigger than New York or Philly. This is about king of the east coast.”

That said everything one needs to know about today’s so-called “world” championship belts.

Why wasn’t Team Judah present?

Golden Boy (which was promoting the fight and had a vested interest in Danny winning) had made a decision in tandem with the Garcias to present the fighters to the media separately (Danny first) without consulting the Judahs.

After Danny and Angel finished with the media, there was a problem. Zab had left the premises. Twenty minutes later, following some frantic telephone calls, he returned and strode to the dais.

Zab was pissed. He’d been sitting in the basement when he was told that the press conference had started without him and that he wasn’t welcome to address the media until after the Garcias were done. That angered him sufficiently that he’d walked out of the building. Now he was back.

“This is crazy,” Zab declared. “Insane. I’ve been here since eleven o’clock in the basement downstairs, no water, no food, locked in a little room because of Danny Garcia and his insecurities. My call time was eleven. I’ve been in boxing seventeen years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

After predicting victory, Judah voiced more indignation and closed with the thought, “Angel Garcia is a dopehead. He must be a dope addict or crackhead because he can’t control himself. He’s a customer. After he gets his check on Saturday night, they’ll be lining up on the street to sell to him.”

As for clues regarding the outcome of the fight, Zab’s partisans noted that Garcia had a limited resume. Also, Zab’s split-decision victory over Lucas Matthysse gave his backers hope. Matthysse is a good fighter who can whack.

But Judah-Matthysse had been thirty months earlier. A more appropriate measuring stick seemed to be how each fighter had fared against Amir Khan.

Nine months ago, Garcia was getting beaten up by Khan. But he kept punching with the faster sharper puncher until he landed a hard left hook on the Brit’s neck that led to a fourth-round knockout.

One year before that, Judah had fought Khan, was getting beaten up, and submitted. The Khan fight was a low point for Zab. He did virtually nothing for five rounds before being stopped by what appeared to be a low blow. But he’d fought so poorly that there was little sense of injustice among fans or media regarding the foul.

Judah tends to fade in the second half of fights. And he’s 35 years old. The feeling was that Danny could deflate Zab and turn the fight around with one punch. And when it came, that turn would be irrevocable because, once Judah stands down, he doesn’t step back up. From that point on, it’s just a question of whether he can hang on until the end of the fight.

“I’ve got it all,” Zab told the media at the final pre-fight press conference. “Handspeed, style, power, defense. The Zab Judah you guys fell in love with is back.”

He didn’t mention heart.

When fight night arrived, a crowd of 13,048 was on hand to witness the proceedings. Because of the bad blood between the fighters’ camps, there was a lot of negative energy in the arena. The boos were louder than the cheers during the ringwalk and introduction for each combatant.

The bout began with Judah, a southpaw, throwing jabs but showing reluctance to let his left hand go. Garcia threw occasional rights but had trouble pinning Zab down because of the latter’s speed and movement. The champion wanted to mix it up. The challenger wanted to box.

In round three, Garcia took control of the fight. He won the next six stanzas on the strength of his right hand. Too often, he throws it in a wide looping arc. When straightened out, it’s effective. Most of the rights that Danny landed were above the belt. But enough of them were low that it was a problem.

Meanwhile, Zab was fighting a safety-first fight, which meant that he wasn’t giving Garcia a reason to stop coming forward and throwing punches.

In round five, a big right hand wobbled Judah. That was the point at which he has been known to deflate and mail in the rest of the fight. Garcia knew it and went after Zab, wobbling him twice in round six with big right hands. Judah survived. But one could have made the case that it was a 10-8 round for Garcia. And Zab had six long rounds ahead of him. If history was a guide, he was toast.

Round seven was more of the same. Judah couldn’t get out of the way of right hands. In round eight, Garcia appeared to seal the deal. Zab landed a sharp left. Garcia doesn’t throw combinations as much as he throws one punch at a time. But there are times when he pulls the trigger quickly, particularly when countering. This time, he fired back with a straight right that deposited Judah on the canvas and opened an ugly gash beneath Zab’s left eye.

Then the unexpected happened. Zab, who had come to box, started fighting.

Garcia has a good chin. For the rest of the night, he needed it.

In round nine, Judah landed some hard shots. Twenty seconds into round ten, a straight left hurt Garcia and forced him to back off. Zab took his time going after his foe; more time than he should have. But a minute later, another straight left wobbled Danny and he was staggered again just before the bell.

Zab was doing something that he’d never done before in a big fight. He was coming back from adversity. He had two round left to knock Garcia out. It seemed possible.

But instead of fighting with the desperation of a man who needed a knockout to win, Zab fought like a man who needed simply to put the last two rounds in the bank. He won the rounds, but it wasn’t enough.

The judges gave the nod to Garcia by a 115-112, 114-112, 116-111 margin. This writer scored it 115-111 in Garcia’s favor.

And now, one final thought.

In recent years, a culture of disrespect has taken root in boxing at all levels of the sport. Instead of being embarrassed by bad behavior, promoters and television executives have embraced it as a marketing tool.

Because of Angel Garcia’s pre-fight antics and the bad blood between the fighters’ camps, it was deemed necessary for Garcia and Judah to weigh in separately. On the night of the fight, six security guards divided the ring diagonally to keep the fighters apart before the opening bell.

Can anyone imagine the National Football League saying, “We’re going to skip the ritual pre-game coin toss because the coaches and captains might get into a fistfight.”

The fact that it was considered dangerous for the Garcia and Judah camps to be together at the final pre-fight press conference and weigh-in spoke volumes for the idiocy of those involved. If no one else can enforce order, the governing state athletic commission should take the lead in these situations.

Allow the fighters – and only the fighters – onto the platform for the weigh-in. Warn them that any antics will result in a huge fine. Stop allowing thirty people in the ring before a fight.

The pre-fight histrionics before Garcia-Judah tarnished boxing. The fight itself redeemed the sport.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at His next book (Thomas Hauser on Sports: Remembering the Journey) will be published by the University of Arkansas Press later this spring.


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



new television

THREE PUNCH COMBO — We are embarking into a new age in boxing. There are new television contracts and digital platforms available that are making the sport more visible than ever before to the masses. But with all these new deals and platforms, it is important not to forget some of the consistent programming that has been around for some time. There is no better example of this than the ShoBox series on Showtime.

ShoBox, more formally ShoBox: The New Generation, began with a simple premise of matching young prospects in with tough opposition. To get their fighters on this series, promoters would have to find credible opponents who could potentially test and maybe even upset their prized prospect. This premise has led to consistently competitive and entertaining fights in the more than 200 broadcasts since the inception of the series in 2001.

This past Friday, we saw just how this premise works once again. There was a four fight card that featured competitive fights on paper in all the matches. However, in two of those matches there did seem to be clear favorites though each of the respective fighters was being matched with their toughest foe to date.

James Wilkins and Misael Lopez opened the telecast in a 130-pound contest. Wilkins was featured in a documentary that aired on Showtime just prior to the card and was expected to make a smashing television debut. He was a knockout artist and the thought was that he would put on a show to open the telecast. But instead, Wilkins got a boxing lesson from Lopez who was busier from the outside and managed to mostly avoid the power of Wilkins throughout the contest in winning an eight round unanimous decision.

The main event featured Jon Fernandez facing O’Shaquie Foster in another 130-pound contest. Fernandez had been getting a lot of buzz and many in the sport considered the Spaniard a future star. This was supposed to be a test for Fernandez as Foster (pictured on the right) represented a step up in class, but nonetheless many expected Fernandez to pass the test with flying colors. Instead, the power punching Fernandez was clearly out-boxed by Foster for ten rounds in an entertaining fight.

These two fights showed once again that when young fighters are matched tough we often get better than expected fights that can sometimes deliver surprises. This coming Friday, the series returns with highly touted lightweight prospect Devin Haney (19-0, 13 KO’s) in the main event taking on former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (33-2-2, 21 KO’s). This is a fight in which Haney is favored but one in which he is facing the toughest challenge of his young career. At the very least, this should be a test for the highly touted 19-year-old Haney and I am certain we get a compelling fight.

ShoBox is boxing’s most consistent series and one that just continues to provide fight fans with high caliber, competitive fights.

10 Percent or 10 Pounds – How To Combat Fighters Who Blow Up In Weight

It is time to address the issue of fighters gaining an absurd amount of weight following the weigh-in. There is a reason why we have weight classes in boxing. If one fighter enters the ring weighing significantly more than his opponent, it gives the bigger fighter a big advantage. This can make for not only non-competitive fights but potentially dangerous situations. I have a simple solution that I think can combat this problem.

In past articles, I have touched on the issue of fighters who miss the contracted weight. My argument has always been to implement a system with stiff financial penalties. So in a similar aspect, I think stiff financial penalties can combat the continued problem of fighters blowing up in weight after the official weigh-in.

What I propose is second day weigh-ins where fighters would not be permitted to put on more than ten pounds or 10 percent (whichever is more) of the contracted weight limit. If they are over, the fight still goes on but the fighter who misses the second day weight limit pays a substantial fine. This simple adjunct can be easily administered by the various state commissions in the United States (or any other commissions worldwide).

Here is an example:  Let’s say we have a fight contracted at 130 pounds and each fighter weighs in at 129 pounds. The second day limit would be 10 percent of 130 pounds which was the contracted weight. So each fighter could come in at a maximum of 143 pounds. Now let’s say one fighter comes in at 146 pounds. The penalty I propose would be 20 percent of that fighter’s purse per pound over the weight. And this money goes directly to their opponent. Under this example, the fighter over weight would lose 60 percent of his purse.

Zero Shouldn’t Mean That Much

We are in an era, largely due to The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Factor, where fighters are often overly protected to keep that precious zero in the loss column. But to do so, they are frequently matched with soft opposition and learn little from dismantling their overmatched foes. There is little to no growth in their career during this period and though the record may get glossy, the development of the fighter may be stunted.

Setbacks can humble fighters and make them see what needs to be done so as not to experience that feeling again. They become better overall fighters and put themselves in a better long term position in their career.

This past weekend, we saw two once promising prospects bounce back with career defining wins after suffering an early unexpected defeat. They are both now in prime position to have their respective careers blossom which may not have otherwise been the case.

Earlier I mentioned O’Shaquie Foster’s upset win against Jon Fernandez. Three years ago, Foster was a highly touted prospect. He had a good amateur background and was blessed athletically with dynamic speed. After building up an 8-0 record against less than formidable opposition, he lost in a dreadful performance to Samuel Teah. Another loss would follow several months later to Rolando Chinea. But Foster clearly learned from his mistakes in these fights and bounced back, layering his natural athletic ability with much improved skills in frankly outclassing Fernandez. Foster’s losses made him take a step back and re-evaluate what needed to be done inside the ring. He is now in prime position to become a contender in the 130-pound weight division.

Luke Campbell was a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and considered a can’t-miss future star in boxing. But in his 13th pro fight, in a rather shocking development, he was put on the canvas and lost a split decision to veteran Yvan Mendy. Another loss followed two years later against Jorge Linares but Campbell performed well while losing a split decision and flashed signs of improvement from the Mendy setback.

The rematch with Mendy for Campbell took place this past weekend and Campbell did what many expected him to do in their first encounter. He boxed effectively from the outside and mixed in precision combination punching to easily avenge the defeat. It was a dynamic performance by Campbell and put him in line for a big fight at lightweight.

Luke Campbell is a vastly different fighter from the one who lost to Mendy three years earlier and appears primed to potentially live up to the once high expectations. He is in a better spot today in his career due to what he learned from that first loss to Mendy.

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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In Dismantling Povetkin, Joshua Recaptured His Swag among the Heavyweights



experienced opponent

He was in against a very crafty and experienced opponent in former WBA titlist Alexander Povetkin 34-2 (24). And although he was troubled by the dangerous Russian fighting small as he tried to inch his way in and time him, AJ adjusted well and started to take the initiative and dropped and stopped Povetkin in the seventh round, retaining his WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titles and thus becoming the first fighter to ever stop Povetkin, something Wladimir Klitschko failed to do.

During the fight AJ was forced back. He had to adapt to Povetkin making him punch down and that caused him to be a little tentative, especially after being bloodied from a broken nose in the first round. And early on, AJ was a little confused and busy trying to keep Povetkin occupied from outside so he couldn’t get in on him. His most effective weapon in doing such was his left jab, delivered to the head or body, although the fight really turned when he began putting his one-two together. Then after a fairly evenly-paced bout, AJ slowed some with the hope it would lure Povetkin to close in a little harder, and he did.

As Povetkin, who came to fight, became more assertive, he became more vulnerable. AJ found the openings for his big right hand and left hook. With the first really solid right hand that bounced off his chin, Povetkin buckled and instinctively went back. Joshua pursued him and then, with near Joe Louis-like accuracy, put his right hands and hooks together, along with a beautiful right to the body in the middle of the assault and finished his game opponent.

Once again it was shown that trading with AJ is almost certain suicide. Povetkin was in great shape and would’ve been a handful for any other heavyweight in the world because he no doubt brought his A-game. Sometimes it takes AJ a little while to get going, and if you don’t do anything to bother him or wake him up, he doesn’t fight with the urgency of a “Smokin” Joe Frazier. However, when you wake him up and force him to cut loose, he’s so dangerous that he doesn’t need too many clean shots to end it. And making Joshua more lethal is that he has both short and inside power in both hands.

After months of hearing how Povetkin was the most serious threat to Joshua, that’s now finished business. Prior to the bout The Ring magazine rated the top six heavyweights in the world as follows…..Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker, in that order. Now Joshua is 3-0 (2) versus Povetkin, Whyte and Parker which squashes the narrative that he has fought weaker opposition than WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) who has only faced Ortiz among the top six.

Today, the most widely levied criticism of any elite fighter is that he didn’t fight the best man or men in his division. Fighters can’t control who their contemporaries are but they can control fighting the best of their era. Rocky Marciano’s era wasn’t stellar, but he fought every top fighter who was in line to challenge him. Floyd Mayweather fought in a stout era – the difference is an overwhelming majority of his bouts with big name opponents were strategically manipulated so that he faced them on the downside of their career – and that’s a fact, not a theory.

Forty years after his last victory in a title fight, Muhammad Ali is respected and revered as a fighter even by those who don’t claim to be a fan of his. Why? He wasn’t the most fundamental boxer in heavyweight history nor was he the biggest puncher, and not all of his fights were edge of your seat exciting. The thing that’s often cited as to why he was a marvel is that he fought the best of the best during one of the deepest eras in heavyweight history. There were a few times between 1975-77 that he held a win over every fighter ranked among The Ring magazine’s top-10. Sure he fought a few Brian London’s and Jean Pierre Coopman’s, but London was encompassed by Sonny Liston and Ernie Terrell during the 1960s and Coopman by Joe Frazier and Ken Norton during the 1970s.

Anthony Joshua hasn’t yet sniffed the greatness of Ali on many levels, but he is on the same trajectory in regards to meeting and defeating the best of his generation. By the end of this month, the WBC heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and former champ Tyson Fury will likely become official with them meeting in early December. And regardless of who wins, Joshua, if he really wants to etch a great legacy, must pressure the winner to meet him in their next bout. In addition to that, he must tell his brain, aka Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, to forget about winning the purse war if it is the only stumbling block. If the winner of Wilder-Fury is impressive, he will have earned a 50-50 split.

During the faux negotiations between the Joshua and Wilder camps this past summer the purse split was the focal point. And prior to the prospect of Wilder and Fury meeting, Joshua clearly held the better hand based on his resume and owning three titles to Wilder’s single title.  But the Wilder-Fury winner will have closed the gap and Joshua needs to be next while the fighters are at or near their prime. The fact is Joshua versus the Wilder/Fury winner will be the most widely anticipated fight in the heavyweight division since Lewis-Tyson and maybe even since Tyson-Holyfield I. The onus is on the fighters to make it happen and they both have the clout to make sure it does, especially Joshua.

Interviewed in the ring after dispatching Povetkin, AJ said it didn’t matter to him who he fought next as long as it’s Wilder or Fury, but it was obvious that he preferred Wilder. A lot depends on how Wilder fares with Fury, but until then, here’s what we know…..Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz are about on the same level; having never faced each other, it’s a tossup as to who’d win. Both Joshua and Wilder scored impressive stoppages over Povetkin and Ortiz respectively…AJ needed seven rounds and Deontay needed ten rounds. During his bout with Ortiz, Wilder was knocked around the ring and had to endure a few big exchanges, some of which he came out second-best. Wilder was also nearly stopped in the seventh round but battled back, summoning great courage and reserve to win a fight he was losing. Against Povetkin, Joshua was more troubled than he was beaten up. And once he found his range and pace and began putting his punches together, the fight ultimately ended when AJ got off with his best stuff. In essence, Joshua was more impressive against Povetkin and had fewer close calls than did Wilder against Ortiz.

Between now and the time Wilder fights Tyson Fury, it’ll be debated as to who was more impressive – Joshua against Povetkin or Wilder against Ortiz; the answer is clearly Joshua for the reasons stated. Moreover, when analyzing a fight, A + B doesn’t equal C. Joshua will be favored over either Wilder or Fury, but probably along the line of 7-5 and nothing will change that.

The thing that emerged from Joshua dismantling Povetkin is that AJ recaptured some of the limelight and swag he ceded to Wilder this past March. AJ is again the fighter to beat in the heavyweight division and will probably get the bigger purse split regardless of whether he faces Wilder and Fury.

That said, he better not let the fight fall through over it!

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at

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



Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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