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WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Wylie Dissects Mayweather and Canelo’s Game, Part 1

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Floyd Mayweather is generally regarded as the best fighter in boxing today. Despite being almost 37 years-old, he has yet to show any conclusive signs that may point to his decline. That his record has remained unblemished in spite of a 17 year-long professional boxing career that has seen him rise through five separate weight classes is really quite astonishing. While his many critics will highlight the fact that he has, on more than one occasion, managed to avoid some of the more risky challenges that were out there for him, only an all-time great could have faced the opposition Mayweather has without ever tasting defeat.

And so, ahead of Saturday’s clash with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, I will attempt to shed light on some of the nuances of perhaps the most well-rounded pugilist on the planet. In addition, I will also be taking a brief look at Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and will be highlighting some of the ways in which he could potentially take advantage of some of Mayweather’s technical intricacies.

Trying to find imperfections in a fighter who boasts a perfect fighting record is no easy task. All fighters, however, have a tendency to fall into certain habitual patterns—some good, some bad—that can be exploited.

Because no fighter is perfect—everyone makes mistakes from time to time—habits are the smartest aspect of a fighter’s game to analyze and try and take advantage of.

Habits are formed in the gym, where the average fighter will spend hundreds of hours honing their skills.

Floyd Mayweather is not your average fighter.

It is no secret that Mayweather quite literally grew up in a boxing gym; his craft and ring savvy mirror that: according to CompuBox, Mayweather, with a plus/minus rating of +24 (that’s the difference between a fighter’s overall connect rate and that of his opponents), is the finest exponent of the-hit-and-don’t-get-hit philosophy in the entire sport. His opponent on September 14th is ranked number two on that list with a plus/minus rating of +18.

Nevertheless, Mayweather is no different from any other fighter in that the very same gym-sharpened techniques can be seen being used in almost every single one of his fights. It is while performing these techniques that a fighter (even a seemingly flawless one like Floyd) may present the opponent with openings on a somewhat predictable level.

We’ve got an awful lot to get through between now and the end of this analysis, so without further ado, let’s now take a look at some of Mayweather’s tendencies and signature techniques.


Roughhousing tactics

Despite being regularly touted as the finest “pure” boxer on the planet, much of Mayweather’s success in the ring can be attributed towards how he controls his opponents when he isn’t throwing punches.

Similarly to Bernard Hopkins, Mayweather is not afraid to manipulate the rules, often operating just inside the legal boundaries—and even beyond them—but always completely unawares to the official, of course.

One of Mayweather’s little tricks on the inside is to raise his lead arm and push his elbow or forearm into the opponent’s chest (or into their head or neck), causing them to try and hold on or turn to the official in the hope that he calls for a break or issues Floyd a warning.

This can be seen throughout his fights with Shane Mosley and Ricky Hatton.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 1Mosley looks to close the distance on Mayweather…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 2.but ends up running head-first into Floyd’s lead elbow.     

It’s not just when the opponent is on the attack that Floyd will employ these tactics either; Mayweather will often initiate an attack with a straight right hand, and will then look to immediately smother the opponent’s counter or clinch attempts. If it’s the latter, once his elbow is wedged firmly up against the opponent’s chest or neck, Floyd will push off and continue punching as they try to hold. Using his non-punching hand, elbow or forearm to pin the opponent in place while he’s punching with his free hand, Mayweather will hold, punch, maneuver, and then punch again, giving the opponent little option but to try and cover up or hold on.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 3Mayweather closes in on Mosley.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 4Mosley slips outside of Mayweather’s straight right.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 5Mosley’s clinch attempt is thwarted by Mayweather’s right forearm.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 6Mayweather pushes Mosley off and immediately nails him with a left hook…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 7...followed by a right hand.

Mayweather’s intermitting hold-and-punch style of fighting makes it very difficult for the opponent to forecast and defend against.

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A quick look at the Ricky Hatton fight shows just how effective (and sneaky) Mayweather can be on the inside when employing these holding tactics.

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Body jab

Yet another staple of Mayweather’s game is the undervalued body jab. Although he doesn’t regularly invest to the body—a la Joe Frazier—Floyd will target the body with his jab—a la Ali—to probe and open up targets for further attacks. Once the opponent begins lowering their guard to defend against his body jab, Floyd will shift his attack upstairs.

Mayweather used the body jab quite magnificently against Ricky Hatton (on display in the previous video) and Diego Corrales—changing levels for what both men assumed would be a body jab before catching them stepping in with a left hook or straight right up top.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 8Mayweather distracts Corrales by showing him a raised lead hand (blinding jab).

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 9Mayweather drops low and sinks a jab deep into the pit of Corrales’ stomach.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 10Mayweather adjusts his feet to re-establish his range.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 11Mayweather’s feint causes Corrales to hunch over and lower his guard in anticipation of the body jab. 

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 12Mayweather lands a lead hook to the head.

Although some trainers will discourage their fighter from throwing a jab to the body because of the increased vulnerability to counters, it is an excellent way to condition the opponent into adjusting their guard to compensate (sometimes without them even realizing) so that further openings may be created and exploited.

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Fade Counter

“I make the enemy see my strengths as weaknesses and my weaknesses as strengths, while I cause his strengths to become weaknesses and discover where he is not strong”.

                       —Ho Yen-hsi

Similar to how one may set a trap in order to catch a mouse, one of Floyd’s go-to moves is his fade/pull counter, which he uses to draw out a predictable attack from the opponent that he can then counter.

Standing just outside the pocket and often with his gloves lowered and slightly apart, Mayweather baits the opponent into leading with a jab, where he will then lean back and to his left (similar to an inside slip if not for the difference in weight transfer) and land a straight right. It may seem fairly obvious when Mayweather is plotting this counter attack—he raises the heel of his back foot and shifts his weight over on to his front leg—yet his opponents, snake-charmed by his “vulnerable” glove position and “exposed” head, always seem to give into temptation and lead off in a predictable way.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 13Mayweather leans forward, shifting his weight onto his front foot, gloves slightly apart, looking to draw a lead from Mosley.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 14Taking the bait, Mosley overcommits and ends up over-reaching with his jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 15Mayweather counters with a straight right.

By offering false targets, Mayweather—like all of the great counterpunching technicians—can funnel his opponent’s options and draw out the very attack that he intends to counter.


Half Guard Defense

Mayweather is not only one of the most fluid movers in boxing, but when he decides to plant his feet and stand his ground, he is also one of the very best pocket fighters in the sport too, thanks, in no small part, to his half guard/shoulder roll/Philly Shell defense.

Although it is not something we haven’t seen before, Mayweather’s effectiveness with the half guard defense, where jabs and hooks are parried or blocked with the rear hand and the lead shoulder is turned in to divert and diffuse any right-handed attacks, has earned him the reputation as one the greatest defensive savants of this or any era.

Using an open right glove to parry the jab, Mayweather uses his lead shoulder almost exclusively for deviating the (orthodox) opponent’s right hand off target so he can come back with counter rights.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 16Oscar De La Hoya forces Mayweather to the ropes.           

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 17Mayweather parries Oscar’s jab with his rear glove.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 18Mayweather rolls with Oscar’s right hand…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 19and comes back with a right hand.

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Mayweather’s rolling of the lead shoulder to protect his jawline does two things: 1) it serves its main purpose (which is to defend) by deflecting the right hand off of the lead shoulder, 2) it spring-loads Mayweather’s hips and places him at a more desirable angle to come back with right hand counters.

Although Floyd is primarily a defensive fighter, he most certainly cannot be accused of being passive in the ring. Whenever an opponent is made to miss, he nearly always makes them pay tenfold.

Another variation of Floyd’s rolling and countering is when a right hand is thrown at him from range; Floyd will use his lead elbow or forearm to spike the opponent’s extended right arm (rather than his shoulder) to steer them toward his right hand.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 20Mayweather attempts to draw a lead from Baldomir by offering him a tempting target.  

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 21Baldomir tries his luck by throwing a right hand aimed toward Mayweather’s “unprotected” left flank, but Floyd deflects the blow off target using his left forearm…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 22and counters with a short right hand.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 23Floyd then immediately weaves out (to his right) to avoid Baldomir’s counter.

Against Carlos Baldomir, Floyd knew that by countering with his right hand, his right flank would immediately open up and become a potential target. By rolling under and out to his right, Floyd managed to evade his opponent’s most likely response after throwing a right hand; a left hook aimed toward his unprotected right flank.

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Closing the Doors on the Right Lead

A boxer’s job is not complete until they have “closed the door” after finishing an attack, either by jabbing their way out, or angling out. One of the safest exits to round off an attack with—attention Amir Khan, this concerns you– is to duck under and out to the left or right depending on which direction one’s last punch came from. For example, after a right hand, one should roll underneath and out to the right (to avoid the opponent’s likely counter left), and after throwing a left hook, one should roll under and out to the left (to avoid the opponent’s right hand).

Thrown straight from the guard and with very little that may signal to its arrival, Floyd executes his right hand lead better than anyone else in the sport—often forcing the opponent to step to him where he will catch them in-between steps on what is known as the half-beat, before taking some kind of pre-emptive measure against the most common reaction.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 24

Mayweather closes in on southpaws Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero respectively.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 25

Mayweather distracts with a “blinding jab”.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 27

Mayweather throws a right hand lead…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 28

and immediately ducks underneath and out to his right to avoid the southpaw left.

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Mayweather epitomizes what good boxing is all about. To compete at the highest level, boxing is about doing what is absolutely necessary in order to minimize one’s openings while taking advantage of the opponent’s.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 29Moving in behind a high guard, Floyd presses the attack…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 30and connects with a straight right.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 31Anticipating a left hook counter, Mayweather ducks underneath…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 32and rolls out to his right.

As you can see, Mayweather’s brilliance is not a result of his speed, reflexes or any other physical attribute; Mayweather is brilliant purely because of his timing, control of distance and unrivalled ring intelligence.

Needless to say, as of yet, there is no definitive blueprint on how to beat Floyd Mayweather. As slick as he is, however, Mayweather is certainly not without a stylistic flaw or two.

Let’s now take a look at some of the ways in which one (specifically Canelo) could possibly take advantage of some of Mayweather’s tendencies.


Deception

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when we are far away, we must make him believe we are near”           

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In many fields of endeavor, people rely on deception to help them reach their targets. In sports, such as basketball and football, players will fake a pass in one direction to throw off opposing players only to execute the actual intended play in another.

In boxing, the success or failure of such deceptive ploys depends upon the ability of the deceiver to lull the opponent into believing and acting upon a false action.

Early in the second round, Shane Mosley used a body jab to lure Mayweather’s rear hand away from his guard. As a result, Mosley was able to connect with a hard right cross that—if not for Mayweather’s defensive instincts that saw him clamping down on Mosley’s right arm immediately afterwards—would have almost certainly led to his demise.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 33Mayweather is ready to defend inside his half guard defensive posture.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 34Mayweather lowers his rear hand to parry Mosley’s low jab…     

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 35but fails to react to the subsequent right hand in time.

A strategy that relies solely on a direct approach will soon result in a predictable attack. By targeting the body first and diverting Mayweather’s attention away from the intended target, Mosley was able to take advantage of a momentary lapse in Mayweather’s defensive structure.

Non-Rhythmic Combinations

Performed well, the half guard defense can be a tough nut to crack. However, like all guards, no one guard is impenetrable as every single one of them leaves an opening somewhere.

As we know, defensive-minded counterpunchers like Floyd love to set traps and draw the opponent in. Since Mayweather is very calculating, it is possible to confuse him by simply not giving him what he expects. Establishing a pattern and then abruptly breaking away from it can accomplish this as it is very difficult to counter effectively unless there is a pattern to predict. In other words, if they are not attacked in a predictable way, counterpunchers cannot mount a reliable counter-strategy.

For so long now, Mayweather has been faced with opponents who all shared the same game plan; pressure him, close the distance, and try to overwhelm him with volume on the inside.

Consider Mayweather’s bout with Philip N’Dou. Every time N’dou found Mayweather up on the ropes, he threw nothing but predictable left-right-left-right combinations that were easy for Mayweather to time and roll with.

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http://youtu.be/oVxtbjVWxAk

The half guard defense is the perfect foil for this brand of generic attack. Even the mercurial Juan Manuel Marquez, a stunningly beautiful combination puncher at his best, fell into the same trap against Floyd by failing to vary the rhythm and sequence of his combinations.

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http://youtu.be/FCiVNJ60RyA

Back in June, Paulie Malignaggi entered his fight with Adrien Broner a massive underdog. Because of an intelligent game plan, the fight ended up being far more competitive than many had anticipated and while Broner certainly did enough to earn himself a larger portion of the rounds based on him landing the cleaner and more effective punches, Malignaggi was successful where others have failed recently in exposing some of Broner’s stylistic limitations and, to some extent, those of the half guard defense.

As opposed to route one sluggers in Vicente Escobedo and Antonio DeMarco, Paulie employed lots of lateral movement, didn’t always try to take Broner’s head off with one shot, and more importantly, he threw his combinations against the grain.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 36Paulie throws a low jab which forces Broner to reach low to parry it.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 37Instead of following up with a predictable right, Malignaggi doubles up on his left with a lead hook to the body.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 38Paulie then breaks up the combination by taking a half step back…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 39feints a jab (drawing out Broner’s rear hand parry)

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 40and lands a solid left to the head.

Unlike Philip N’dou and Juan Manuel Marquez when they were confronted with a similar defensive construct, Paulie varied his combinations and threw them discordantly. By doubling and even tripling up on the same hand mid-combination, Paulie made it difficult for Broner to block and roll with his punches.

The true essence of combination punching is not to do all the damage with the initial blow, but to create an opening for a more damaging final one (through manipulating the opponent’s guard by throwing several lesser ones) somewhere down the line. While it is important that each punch is thrown in a rhythmic, free-flowing manner (Marquez does this better than anyone), it is equally important to vary the rhythm and targets.

In other words, rather than simply launch each combination in a uniform pattern (left-right-left-right), it is often best to change the speed of the individual punches and the length of pauses between them (left-left…..left-right). This is what Paulie did brilliantly against Broner (notice that Paulie’s entire combination in the above stills was thrown entirely off his lead hand).

During their fight, Canelo, a brilliant rhythmic and non-rhythmic combination puncher, managed to floor recent opponent Josesito Lopez with a quite vicious, but in no way reckless attack. The key to the whole combination was Canelo’s doubling up on his lead hand and sudden change in tempo.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 41Canelo forces Lopez to the ropes.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 42Canelo throws a blinding jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 43Instead of coming back with a predictable right cross, Canelo moves in behind yet another jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 44Canelo angles to his left off a right uppercut.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 45From a dominant angle, Canelo plants a left hook deep into the floating ribs of Lopez.

If one always maintains a consistent pattern of timing during a combination, the opponent can easily identify and time each blow. However, if one can break up the rhythm and sequence of the combination by slowing down and speeding up one’s punches, as well as by lengthening and shortening the pauses between them, the combination will become a lot more difficult for the opponent to time and, in Mayweather’s case, roll with.

 

Hooking off the Jab

“A feint is an outright lie. You make believe you’re going to hit your opponent in one place, he covers the spot and your punch lands on the other side. A left hook off the jab is a classy lie. You’re converting an I into an L. Making openings is starting a conversation with a guy, so another guy (your other hand) can come and hit him with a baseball bat”.   

—Jose Torres, former light-heavyweight champion of the world.    

Although it is a highly effective way to block the jab and set up counterpunching opportunities, boxers who tend to reach out too far to parry the opponent’s jab (as Mayweather did against Mosley) can be susceptible to hooks immediately following the jab (hooking off the jab). The aim of this technique is to use the jab to draw the opponent’s rear hand out and set him up for a left hook around the guard.

Joe Louis was an absolute master of this technique.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 46

Louis’ subtle pressure forces his opponent to the ropes.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 47

Louis throws a jab to lure the opponent’s rear hand away from his guard…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 48and lands a crushing left hook.

Hooking off the jab is a lost art in modern boxing and is rarely seen nowadays, yet Canelo seems to have perfected the technique and is one of the very few who looks to implement it in the heat of battle.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 49Canelo cuts the ring off on Matthew Hatton.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 50Hatton reaches out to parry Canelo’s jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 51Canelo changes the trajectory and lands a left hook around the guard to Hatton’s newly exposed head.

 

Feint to Angling off Left Hook

During his fight with James Toney back in 1994, Roy Jones managed to exploit a major weakness in Toney’s defensive armor. Quite often, when an opponent is looking to close the distance, the half guard defense calls for the exponent to shift one’s weight over onto the back foot, thus making the head a more elusive target. Jones seemed to find the half guard defense’s sweet spot repeatedly against Toney; preceded by a feint, Jones would angle to his right (Toney’s left) and throw a left hook before sliding out behind Toney’s lead side, making it all but impossible for Toney to come back with counter rights.

Roy Jones’ early knockdown of James Toney illustrated this perfectly.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 52Jones is looking to capitalize on Toney’s retaliatory clowning.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 53Reacting to Jones’ feint, Toney immediately leans back.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 54With Toney’s balance severely compromised, Jones angles toward Toney’s lead side and lands a left hook.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 55Jones now has Toney’s back and has eliminated Toney’s ability to throw an effective counter.

Here is the very same technique performed again.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 56Jones throws a feint at Toney.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 57Jones lands a left hook as Toney, reacting to the feint, dips to his right (Jones’ left).

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 58Placing his rear glove on Toney’s back, Jones secures a dominant angle by skipping out to his right, where he lands yet another left hook.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 59By the time Toney turns and resets, Jones has already exited on a different line to the one on which he entered.

So would the same kind of attack that neutralized James Toney’s half guard defense work just as well against the finest defender in the modern game for someone who doesn’t quite have the same kind of foot speed that Jones possessed during his prime?

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 60Cotto closes in on Mayweather.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 62Cotto feints with a level change.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 63Cotto slides his right foot up and out to his right, and lands a left hook on Floyd, who is leaning back and off balance.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 64Cotto places his rear hand on Mayweather’s back and moves to his blindside. From here, Cotto can continue punching or exit on a different line.

Miguel Cotto doesn’t have nearly half the amount of foot speed that Roy Jones did during his heyday, yet that doesn’t matter; by first feinting, Miguel was able to gain time and draw out a predictable response from Mayweather—leaning back and bending slightly to his right—just as Jones was able to with Toney. Consequently, this kind of attack nullifies the defender’s ability to come back with right hands; the go-to counter from out of the half guard defense.

As we’ve previously discussed, Floyd will lower his lead arm to bait the opponent into throwing their right so he can then roll and counter with his own (for a reminder, look at the opening photo in the Baldomir sequence).

During his fight with Kermit Cintron, Canelo would feint a right hand in order to set up his left hook. Reacting to the feint, Cintron would then bend over at the waist and to his right (as Floyd, Broner and Toney do), only to inadvertently roll directly into Canelo’s incoming left.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 65Canelo closes the distance behind a jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 66Canelo feints a right hand, forcing Cintron to transfer his weight onto his back foot.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 67Canelo angles to his right slightly and lands a left hook to the chin of Cintron, who is now leaning over to avoid Canelo’s “right hand”.

 

Elusive Punching

When Floyd lets his hands go, he leaves openings just like everyone else. It is no coincidence, then, that on three of the four occasions where Floyd has been in the most trouble inside a boxing ring, he was tagged while being on the offensive.

Against Chop Chop Corley…

 

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 69and Shane Mosley.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 70

As the above images clearly illustrate, Floyd can be hit cleanly while he is punching.

Although it is rarely mentioned when discussing Canelo’s strong points, Canelo is actually fairly difficult to hit cleanly during exchanges aimed toward his center because of the way he moves his head and upper body as he throws his punches. This is especially true when Canelo is throwing his overhand right (cross counter over the top of an opponent’s jab).

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 71Alvarez closes in on Cintron.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 72Alvarez slips inside Cintron’s jab…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 73...and lands a hard right hand over the top.

Not only does Alvarez take his head off line, he also changes the elevation of his entire body too. Because of this, Canelo’s opponents soon find out that he is a lot more elusive than they had previously anticipated.

Here’s another example of Canelo’s elusiveness while he is punching.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 74Alvarez and Trout are both looking to engage.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 75By slipping outside, Alvarez forces Trout’s jab to sail past his right shoulder and connects with a straight right hand, sending Trout to the canvas.

It is by observing a fighter’s habits (that can then be taken and used against them) that we soon realize—regardless of what any pound-for-pound list may tell us—that every single fighter is capable of losing a fight through meticulous preparation and strategic thinking.

If Floyd were to lose to Canelo on Saturday, it wouldn’t be because of Canelo’s physical strength, heart, desire or even a lucky punch—it would be because of the young man’s craft and because of a superior strategy.

The concluding part of this two part piece will follow on TSS soon.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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Bob Arum Hails Terence Crawford (not Lomachenko) as Boxing’s Next Superstar

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Arum says Terence

Top Rank’s Bob Arum says Terence Crawford will become this generation’s Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao–elite boxers who became worldwide celebrity sensations. Arum, who promoted both Mayweather and Pacquiao on the way to their historic crossover statuses expects big things from the undefeated Crawford over the next few years.

“He’s the best fighter in the United States, and he’s so charismatic,” said Arum. “He comes from middle America, and In the next year or so, he will be huge.”

Arum’s assertion is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Arum is also the promoter for Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko is ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. More importantly, Lomachenko seems to have a groundswell of support behind him both in the media and among fight fans.

Lomachenko has also been heavily featured through Top Rank’s television partnership with ESPN. While Crawford has achieved more in his career than Lomachenko (at least in my eyes) and, as noted by Arum, is a homegrown American talent, Lomachenko seems to be considered the more marketable commodity to that network judging by the amount of promotional materials ESPN has pumped out about the fighter over the last year.

The other reason Arum’s claim about Crawford is interesting is the performance of Canelo Alvarez over the weekend in his majority decision rematch win over Gennady Golovkin. Besides Mayweather and Pacquiao, Alvarez is the clear PPV leader among all of boxing’s current commodities, and his status as boxing’s new money fighter should only grow stronger after the best win of his career.

Still, Crawford is one of the few very elite fighters in all of boxing. He’s ranked No. 2 pound-for-pound by The Ring, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

While Lomachenko and Alvarez are also candidates to become boxing’s next big thing, there’s no doubt Crawford is also one of the few boxers in the sport right now with the right things in place to become the next Mayweather or Pacquiao.

Omaha’s Crawford is in the midst of an historic run. When he stopped Jeff Horn in round 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in June, Crawford captured a world title in his third different weight class, welterweight. This after Crawford had already captured two lineal boxing championships, as well as multiple alphabet titles, in both the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

By any measure, Crawford is truly one of the best boxers in the sport. Not only does he look the part in the ring on fight night (something more and more writers seem to value most when voting for pound-for-pound lists), but the fighter has already accomplished so much in his career that it seems Arum is doing more than the fiduciary duty of promoting his fighter when he ascribes to Crawford such lofty praise.

Crawford, still just 30 years old, is already halfway to matching Mayweather and Pacquiao’s shared record of most lineal championships. Over the course of his career, Mayweather captured lineal championships at junior lightweight, lightweight, welterweight, and junior middleweight. Pacquiao won his as a flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.

In order for Crawford to grab lineal championship No. 3, most believe he’ll have to go through welterweight phenom Errol Spence. While promotional entanglements might keep this superfight on the shelf for a while, Arum said he had no problem pitting Crawford against Spence in what would be one of the best matchups in recent memory.

“Absolutely,” said Arum when asked about working with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, who represents Spence, to make the fight. Could any response from him be more exciting? Crawford vs. Spence might be the next superfight in boxing. Both fighters are among the very elite, and unlike what ultimately happened with Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, who fought each other well past their peak years, both would be in the prime of their careers.

Winning that fight would certainly go a long way to making Arum’s vision of Crawford’s future come true. And who knows? Maybe Crawford really is the next Mayweather or Pacquiao. Heck, for all we know, he could even be on his way to doing something more.

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A Kaleidoscope of Boxers Guaranteed to Provide Action: Past and Present

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Marvelous Marvin

To set the tone for this article, one needs only to watch the way in which Thomas Hearns came out in the first round against Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was ready to rock and roll as was his fearsome looking opponent. The ensuing unmitigated savagery was the quintessential illustration of full-tilt boogie.

For most boxing fans, the anticipation of an all-out action bout gets the chills running down spines faster than anything else. But not all, as some prefer a tactical or clinical fight that someone like Mikey Garcia can orchestrate and others –but not many—enjoy a defensive gem via a Willie Pep, Nicolino Locche, or Pernell Whitaker. A few love a genuine blood fest that a Gabe Rosado-type can provide, and who doesn’t like seeing something special as in Sugar Ray Leonard, Kostya Tszyu, Terence Crawford or Vasiliy Lomachenko?

Chill-or-be-chilled types like Bob Satterfield and Tommy Morrison were super exciting. In this connection—a certain cadre of warriors, past and present, would come out charging and stalking as soon as the bell rang. Many demonstrated a marked disdain for defense and used a non-stop, no let-up pressure that discouraged their opponents, especially in the late rounds. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable because it sensed some form of destruction was on its way. The cheering would start during the instructions and sometimes did not let up until the concussive end.

This cadre included Rocky Marciano, Tony Ayala, Vicious Victor Galindez, Jeff Fenech, Roberto Duran, and Julio Cesar Chavez (who sapped the spirit of his opponents by ripping away at their mid-section). Also, Carl “The Cat”  Thompson , chill-or-be-chilled Ricardo “Pajarito” Moreno (60-12-1 with 59 KOs),  Ron Lyle, the ultra-violent Edwin Valero, the appropriately nicknamed JulianMr KO” Letterlough, James “The Outlaw” Hughes and his mindboggling ability to snatch victory from certain defeat, Thai stalking monster Khaosai Galaxy (47-1),  the first version of George Foreman (pictured with the aforementioned Lyle), Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim, Ruslan  Provodnikov, Orlando “Siri” Salido, Marcos Maidana, Lenny Z, Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, Mike Alvarado, Brandon Rios, and Mickey Roman (the later four are still fighting but past their primes).

Others who presently incite the anticipation of something special include (but are not limited to) Naoya “Monster” Inoue (16-0), Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (24-0), Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1), Alex Saucedo (27-0), and, of course, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (38-1-1) who now has become slightly more tactical like his nemesis, Canelo Alvarez (50-1-1).

These stand out as representative.

Past

A prime Mike Tyson—and the emphasis is on prime– was the epitome of a boxer who guaranteed action. One simply would not leave his or her seat when “Iron Mike” was doing his highlight reel thing, and his blowout of Michael Spinks punctuated his standing at the top of all-action type fighters, even if the action was usually non-mutual.

Joe Frazier came out smokin’ and would not let up until either he or his opponent were done. For the most part, decisions were not in Joe’s DNA and his left hook was as malicious as a hook can be. With Joe, you just sat back and enjoyed the action. Frazier, wrote boxing historian Tracy Callis,  “was a strong, ‘swarmer’ style boxer who applied great pressure on his opponent and dealt out tremendous punishment with a relentless attack of lefts and rights; His left hook was especially stiff and quick when delivered during his bob-and-weave perpetual attack; he fought three minutes per round and never seemed to tire.”

Carlos “Escopeta” (Shotgun) Monzon (87-3-9) was a powerful and rangy Argentinean killing machine, built like an iron rod. Some said he pushed his punches. Well if he did, he pushed 87 opponents to defeat. He also became only the second man to stop former three-time world champion Emile Griffith, turning the trick in the 14th round. Blessed with great and deceptive stamina and a solid chin, he seemingly was an irresistible force. He was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and defended his title 14 times. “One would need to write a book in order to do justice to comparing a fighter of Carlos Monzon’s calibre to his fellow all-time greats,” wrote Mike Casey.

Arturo Gatti and Irish Micky Ward were the quintessential action fighters. One is gone amidst controversy, and hopefully the other will not pay a price for his many ring wars. With these two, just count up the Fights-of-the-Year and the rest is history. Suffice it to say that Gatti and Ward will be forever linked in boxing lore.

Until his fateful fight with Nigel Benn (another all-action fighter), Gerald McClellan was absolutely, positively, a stalking monster with dynamite in his gloves. It was ferocity and fury at its highest level and it was something to behold. Sadly, his fight with Benn left him permanently disabled; his story remains a dark stain on boxing. As Ian McNeilly notes, “one man’s finest hour was the end of another man’s life as he knew it.”

Michael “The Great” Katsidis’s all-action style made thrilling fights a lock. The Kat” was willing to take three to deliver one. It was blood and guts to the last drop. Whether he too exacted a heavy price for this style remains to be seen.

Lucia Rijker, AKA “The Dutch Destroyer,” lived up to her moniker and destroyed everyone in her path. Again, it wasn’t “if,” it was “when.”

Christy Martin (49-7-3) put female boxing on the map in the ‘90s and she did it by going undefeated in 36 straight encounters, running roughshod over her opponents as evidenced by her 25 wins by stoppage during this run. She also managed to steal the show from a Mike Tyson main event in 1996 during her memorable and bloody battle with Deirdre Gogarty.

Present

Deontay Wilder, aka “The Bronze Bomber,” has a record of 40-0.  With 39 wins coming by KO—many in spectacular fashion, The “Bomber” brings with him that same sense of anticipation that Tyson did. It’s not if; it’s when and “when” can occur at any time. But unlike Tyson, there is a vulnerability that Luis Ortiz exposed that makes the excitement index go even higher.

Dillian Whyte (24-1) has seldom been in a dull affair. His vulnerability combined with his mode of attack ensures thrilling action and the possibility of a stoppage at any time. Unlike Dereck “Del-Boy” Chisora, Whyte is consistently aggressive and dangerous.

Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2) has slowed down considerably but his recent stoppage win over Lucas Matthysse offers hope that he can still conjure up his exciting whirlwind style of fast in-an-out movements that allowed him to win multiple titles over several future Hall of Fame opponents between 2005 and 2011. A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., if rumors are true, would allow Pac Man an opportunity to accomplish a number of extraordinary things including avenging a prior defeat and ruining Mayweather’s undefeated record. Time will tell.

Though he appears to have shot his wad, a prime Antonio Margarito was the classic stalk, stun, and kill fighter. Heck, he belonged on the Discovery Channel. His two blowouts of Kermit Cintron showed the “Tijuana Tornado” at his most brutal. His come-from-behind demolition of Miguel Cotto stands out for its drama and bloodletting—and subsequent speculative controversy.

David Lemieux (39-4) always brings the heat. His fights seldom end as scheduled. With KO power in both hands and a propensity to rehydrate by 20 pounds, he is the essence of danger and attendant excitement. “With the sheer power he carries, Lemieux will always have a shot at beating any middleweight, and he is almost always involved in good action fights,” says James Slater.

Amanda Serrano (35-1-1) is the only women’s boxer to win world titles in six divisions. The “Real Deal” is unique in that she has a high KO percentage (74 percent) which is rare for female boxers. Amanda is 120 seconds of guaranteed action for each round.

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While Iron Mike Tyson is THE MAN, Matthew Saad Muhammad also warrants special billing as he embodied what this article is all about. Steve Farhood summed up the essence of Saad Muhammad with an observation that would be appropriate for his tombstone: “Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad) has a better jab, Marvin Johnson wields more power, James Scott does more sit ups. But, Muhammad’s heart is the size of a turnbuckle, and it anchors his title reign.”

Who did I leave out? Whose name or names would you add to this list?

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