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Zimmerman, Boxing, and Civic Duty

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                                                       New thoughts on old values for the Home of the Brave

No winner can rightfully be declared after The State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. It was a tragedy that became a fiasco after it was hijacked by an irresponsible media that longs to see a house divided.

The New York Times set the tone. It shrugged off the killer’s Peruvian identity and called him a “white Hispanic” and so reduced the fourth estate to a schoolyard instigator. The President—  who won’t be referred to as a “white African American” though his mother was as white as Zimmerman’s father— has been intimately involved. As a matter of law, it is settled: Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in an act the jury determined was self-defense. But it isn’t over. The victim was brought up in the New York mayoral race just yesterday, outrage floods the internet, and protests continue in urban communities, including Chicago, where the reverends are wondering where the spotlight is when it comes to harsher realities like black-on-black murder.

At the center of it all is a quiet grave in Dade Memorial Park and a forgotten truth: A young man is dead and America is poorer for it.

Martin was one of our own. A child of divorce, a good to middling student who wanted to work in aviation as a pilot or mechanic, a recreational drug user, and a cell phone addict. He was also a six-foot, one-inch seventeen-year-old who liked to fight.

Zimmerman, and every other “Zimmerman” in the new America, would do well to learn how to fight.

DEADLY FORCE
According to the U.S. Justice Department, murders committed with a gun dropped 39% over the past twenty years. Other crimes committed with a gun dropped 69% during the same period. Possible explanations include lower birth rates, a combination of pro-active policing and long-term incarceration of chronic violent offenders, more social programs and government assistance, and the so-called “graying of America” (violent crime, like boxing, is a young man’s activity).

Few experts attribute the decline to private gun ownership, which has doubled since 1968. The U.S. leads the world in guns per capita, according to a survey conducted by a Swiss research group. It’s no contest; our rate is three times Canada’s and six times Mexico’s. In real numbers, there are over 310 million legally-owned guns across the land of the free, and sales are up.

That’s a problem.

The U.S. remains one of the most violent industrialized nations on the planet. And make no mistake; our natural propensities are made that much worse because our guns are within reach. The National Rifle Association disputes this and stands on the assertion that gun ownership is the mark of a patriot. It spotlights examples of self-defense with a licensed gun as much as the mainstream media buries them. The NRA’s lnstitute for Legislative Action invites supporters to contribute stories about the heroics of the “Armed Citizen” protecting person and property. Thus far this summer, there have been eleven entries.

But the facts shoot back. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that “less than 1% of non-fatal violent crime victims reported using a gun to defend themselves.” Meanwhile, the likelihood of suicide, lethal domestic violence, and accidental deaths increase dramatically when a gun is in the house. Homicide and “unintentional gun fatality” rates are off the charts, and they are especially bad in areas with more privately-owned guns and less gun control.

We have an image problem. An enduring one is that of the square-jawed American carrying a musket with one foot on a rock. It hearkens back to the Revolutionary War, when British soldiers invaded these shores and the call went out to every able-bodied colonist for the defense of hearth and home.

The second amendment is a tribute to that image.

What happened on the night of February 26th 2012 in Sanford, Florida is not.

BOXING: A CIVIC DUTY?
Able-bodied citizens in a first-world country should not need to carry a firearm to feel safe.

Self-defense is an absolute right, but overkill is not. Simply stated, if George Zimmerman knew how to use his fists, he would have spared the life of a teenager and prevented a media-driven frenzy that divided the American house still further.

Zimmerman was described by a witness for the defense as “a very nice person, but not a fighter.” Dennis Root, an expert in “use of force” testified that he considers several factors when examining self-defense cases including gender, age, size, physical abilities, and special circumstances that can figure into such situations. Particular emphasis is placed on background and training, and for good reason. When a person finds him or herself under attack, the immediate question is whether the person is equipped to repel the attack.

When presented with the defense’s version of events that said Zimmerman was punched in the nose and soon mounted and pummeled before shooting his attacker, Root had this to say: “I don’t know what else he could do based on his abilities…not to be offensive to Mr. Zimmerman, but he doesn’t seem to have any…”

Years ago, I was hitting the speed bag in the basement boxing room of the Boston YMCA when a grey-headed trainer approached. The trainer’s name was Pete Cone. “Three hoodlums just tried to rob me,” he said. He was well into his fifties at the time and took care of his housebound mother. He had an easy smile, a twinkle in his eye, and was so soft-spoken you’d have to lean in to hear him. I heard him. “Whoa! Whoa!” I said. “—You all right? Where are they?” Pete said, “I’m fine, just fine… I managed to knock two of them down but the third one, well, he ran off and I just couldn’t catch up to him.” It should be mentioned that Pete also created monsters and once fought an exhibition with the late, great Emile Griffith.

The sweet science is a social hub for stories like this, and they’re not hard to substantiate:

  • Last year, an eighty-four-old former fighter named Peter Sandy was walking to a Tesco store in Cambridge, England when a mugger pulled a commando-style knife on him. According to Mail Online, Sandy threw a left hook and the mugger fell to the ground. “When he recovered, he ran off.” Sandy said. “The punch was instinctive. I used to train for six hours a day and in that moment it all came back to me.” He retired fifty-six years ago. The article is entitled “You Picked the Wrong Guy!”
  • Rossie Ellis was a middle-aged ex-boxer when he was stabbed in the arm with an ice pick. According to the Hartford Courant, he turned around and knocked out the man who did it.
  • Last October, the Telegraph reported that Amir Khan and his brother, also a professional boxer, fought six men who tried to steal his Range Rover. One of the attackers took a swing at Amir, who was three months removed from his third career loss, and was knocked cold when Amir pulled back and countered. The other five went down like Whac-A-Moles.
  • In Oklahoma City last December, a young man broke into the garage of a boxer, took a swing at him, and ended up taking the beating of his life. The young man’s mug shot says it all: both eyes swelled shut and gauze stuffed up his nose and in his lip. The Blaze entitled the article “This Is Why You Never, Ever Break Into a Boxer’s Home.”
  • In Manhattan around 1970, a well-dressed elderly gentleman sat in the back of a taxi stopped at a red light. He spied two “young punks” running toward the doors on either side. While the driver sat terrified, his fare clambered out and “flattened both” with a right cross for one and a left hook for the other. Two unofficial knockouts can be added to the record of Jack Dempsey.

These types of confrontations are every-day occurrences or close to it. Most go unrecorded though the result is the same —no one had to die.

When Zimmerman joined the Kokopelli Gym in Longwood, Florida, he was obese. He did a commendable job losing weight and turned up in a boxing class. At his trial, gym owner Adam Pollock testified that he was considerably “nonathletic” and never advanced beyond shadow boxing and working the heavy bag. “He didn’t know how to effectively punch,” Pollock said, though the fault of that would lie with the trainer, not a willing client. An advertisement for the Kokopelli boxing program asserts that “transferring energy to a specific target is a skill that ANYONE can learn providing they have the right coaching.” It goes on to invite clients to “learn to hit with POWER regardless of gender, size or age” and “develop practical defensive fundamentals like catching, parrying, redirecting and leverage stopping.”

Pollock made it clear that in his gym, novices are not allowed to spar until they develop the requisite skill. Zimmerman never developed the requisite skill. However, he also took a grappling class and managed to advance enough to work with a partner.

“It’s very important to understand the difference between the two concepts,” Root testified. “In grappling you have the opportunity to what we call ‘tap out’. You can say ‘I quit’ [or] ‘I give up’ if something hurts too much.” Not so in boxing. “In boxing,” Root said, “when you enter the ring with another person, you find you’ve entered into too much, you know, more than you can handle when you’ve been punched and injured already.”

It’s an important differentiation.

It is nearly certain that a fight between Zimmerman and Martin took place on the grounds of the gated community. The defense presented a narrative that placed Zimmerman outside of his vehicle looking for an address to assist police in locating what he believed was a suspicious person. When Zimmerman proceeded back to his vehicle, Martin supposedly appeared and said “What the f*ck’s your problem, homie?” Zimmerman replied, “Hey man, I don’t have a problem.” Martin approached with a balled fist and said “you have a problem now!”

—Even if we accept the defense’s version of events, an incident that begins with a conk on the nose should not end with a call to the coroner, particularly if the victim is an able-bodied male.

Had Zimmerman been trained properly and/or took boxing more seriously, he could have slipped the first blow and countered it with his own. Eventually, he could learn to counter a blow with a six-punch combination like the great Peruvian light heavyweight Mauro Mina, the “Bombardero de Chincha.” Who knows.

We know this much: The sweet science is extraordinarily effective in the street. It breeds confidence, teaches self-control, sharpens the senses, and has been known to remain viable for self-defense long past physical primes. It can cancel out disadvantages in size and flab and it gives citizens something to hold on to, something other than cold steel. A well-schooled left hook is enough to dissuade most anyone from bad intentions. There is no need to kill him. Let him get up, wipe the red off his face with his sleeve, and stumble on his way. Once his head clears he’ll have new manners to think about.

The iconic image of the stalwart American proudly bearing a firearm is selling us short. For a people who have historically prided themselves on self-reliance and skill, why bring a gun to a fist fight? Patriots shouldn’t and true tough guys wouldn’t. The end result is only trauma for victim, shooter, and everyone around them. We just witnessed how traumatic it can be for the whole country.

There are a hundred forty-nine handgun ranges and a hundred sixty-nine boxing gyms in Florida.

Neither is hard to find.

 

 

 


Art credit: “Blood, White and Blue” by Jace McTier. http://www.mctierart.com/country_pride_boxing.html

See “Gun Violence is a U.S. Public Health Problem” (Celeste Monforton 7/13/12) for details not otherwise referenced. Dempsey’s late-in-life double knockout is found in his autobiography, Dempsey (written with Barbara Piatelli Dempsey, New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 285.

Springs Toledo can be contacted at scalinatella@hotmail.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zero Shouldn’t Mean That Much

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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In Dismantling Povetkin, Joshua Recaptured His Swag among the Heavyweights

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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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