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A Look Back at Mayweather-Alvarez: Part One

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Now that the dust has settled and there has been time for reflection, it’s worth taking a look back at the boxing event of 2013: the much-hyped, enormously successful promotion known as “The One.”

Budd Schulberg once wrote, “I’ve always thought of boxing, not as a mirror but as a magnifying glass of our society.”

That certainly was true of the September 14th fight between Floyd Mayweather and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Boxing’s first million-dollar gate was $1,789,238 for the fight between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier on July 2, 1921, at Boyle’s 30 Acres in New Jersey. Adjusted for inflation, that number, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, is equivalent to $23,377,744 in today’s dollars.

Mayweather-Alvarez came close. The official gate was $20,003,150, which exceeded the previous mark of $18,419,200 set by the May 5, 2007, encounter between Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya.

The best guess at present is that Mayweather-Alvarez generated 2,200,000 pay-per-view buys in the United States. That would place it second behind De La Hoya vs. Mayweather, which generated 2.45 million buys for a total of $136,000,000 ($153,400,000 in today’s dollars). When all the numbers are in, that $153,400,000 figure is likely to be exceeded by Mayweather-Alvarez.

Mayweather was guaranteed a minimum purse of $41,500,000 to fight Alvarez. That’s more than the entire 2013 player payroll for either the Miami Marlins ($36,341,900) or Houston Astros ($22,062,600). And Floyd’s take is expected to rise significantly once all the pay-per-view buys and other revenue streams are counted.

So let’s take a look at the good and the bad, the fantasy and the reality of Floyd “Money” Mayweather.

It’s starts with Mayweather’s skill as a fighter.

Mayweather seeks to control every aspect of his life. Thus, it’s ironic that his chosen sport is boxing. In baseball, everyone waits for the pitcher. A golfer does what he can do with the laws of physics as his only adversary. Boxing is the hardest sport in the world for an athlete to control.

Over the course of twelve rounds, Mayweather controls the confines of a boxing ring as few men ever have.

The most admirable thing about Floyd is his work ethic and dedication to his craft.

Years ago, Luis Cortes wrote, “A majority of upsets occur when the more naturally-talented fighter forgets that boxing is not just about talent.”

Mayweather doesn’t forget. He gives one hundred percent in preparing for a fight every time out.

“I’m a perfectionist,” Floyd says. “No one works harder than I do. I worked my ass off to get to where I am now. Nobody is perfect, but I strive to be perfect.”

Heywood Broun once wrote of Benny Leonard, “No performer in any art has ever been more correct. His jab could stand without revision in any textbook. The manner in which he feints, ducks, sidesteps, and hooks is unimpeachable. He is always ready to hit with either hand.”

The same can be said of Mayweather. He and Bernard Hopkins have two of the highest “boxing IQs” in the business. Like Hopkins, Floyd shuts down his opponent, taking away what the opponent does best.

“Floyd has man strength and he knows how to use it,” Hopkins says.

When Mayweather is stunned (the last time it appeared to have happened was in round two against Shane Mosley three years ago), he holds on like the seasoned pro that he is. What’s more instructive is what Floyd does when he’s hit solidly but is fully compos mentis. His instinct is to fire back hard rather than let an opponent build confidence.

“Floyd does all things necessary to win a fight,” Mosley notes.

That includes fighting rough and pushing the rules up to, and sometimes beyond, their boundary if the referee allows him to do so.

Against Mosley, Mayweather pushed down hard on the back of Shane’s head and neck as an offensive maneuver seventeen times and used a forearm-elbow to the neck aggressively twenty-three times.

“Winning is the key to everything,” says Leonard Ellerbe (CEO of Mayweather Promotions). “As long as Floyd keeps winning, there’s no limit to the things he can accomplish.”

Mayweather keeps winning. His split-decision victory over Oscar De La Hoya is the only time that a fight went to the scorecards and a judge had Floyd behind. Tom Kaczmarek scored that bout 115-113 for Oscar.

Floyd walks through life with a swagger. He flaunts his lifestyle and wealth. First HBO, and now Showtime, have put tens of millions of dollars worth of time and money into cultivating the Mayweather image. Floyd, for his part, has created and nurtured the “Money Mayweather” persona. “You can’t be a 35-year-old man calling yourself ‘Pretty Boy’,” he said last year, explaining the change in his sobriquet.

When Mayweather speaks of his “loved ones,” one gets the feeling that Floyd holds down the top three or four spots on the list. He lives in ostentatious luxury (a 22,500-square-foot primary residence in Las Vegas and a 12,000-square-foot home in Miami) surrounded by beautiful women and devoted followers who adore him. The money that he puts in their pockets, we’re told, has no bearing on their affection.

Tim Keown has tracked Floyd on two occasions for ESPN: The Magazine and reported, “This is a man who wears his boxer shorts once before throwing them out. This is a man who keeps his head shaved, yet travels on a private jet with his personal barber; who has two sets of nearly identical ultra-luxury cars color-coded by mansion – white in Las Vegas, black in Miami [“roughly two dozen” Rolls Royces, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Ferraris, Bugattis, and Mercedes].

“Along with gaudy possessions and unlimited subservience comes something far more vital,” Keown continues. “Self-justification. It’s wealth as affirmation. A case filled with more than $5,000,000 in watches is not a mere collection. It is a statement.”

Keown further reported that, on a recent shopping trip to New York, Mayweather spent “close a quarter of a million dollars on earrings and a necklace for his 13-year-old daughter, Iyanna.”

One might question how a gift of that magnitude affects a young adolescent’s values.

Meanwhile, tweets regarding Mayweather’s gambling winnings (he regularly wagers six figures on a single basketball or football game) read like reports of Korean dictator Kim Jong-il’s maiden golf outing, when the Korean state media reported eleven holes-in-one en route to a final score of 38 under par.

Sports Illustrated reported in its March 12, 2012, issue that Mayweather had lost a $990,000 wager on the March 3rd basketball game between Duke and North Carolina. Floyd didn’t tweet that.

Working for Mayweather means being available twenty-four-seven. When Floyd says “jump,” his employees ask “how high?”

“They have to be ready to get up and go at four o’clock in the morning,” Floyd says. “If I call and say ‘I need you now,’ I don’t mean in an hour. I mean now.”

Keown confirms that notion, writing, “His security crew routinely receives calls at two or three a.m. to accompany the nocturnal Mayweather to a local athletic club for weights and basketball. On this day, his regular workout finished, the champ tells one of his helpers to beckon two women from his entourage into his locker room. As he showers, he calls for one of them, a tall, dark-haired woman named Jamie, to soap his back while he continues to carry on an animated conversation with five or six men in the room.”

That leads to another issue. The subservience of women in Mayweather’s world and his treatment of them.

Floyd likes pretty women. No harm in that. He’s on shakier ground when he says, “Beauty is only skin deep. An ugly m——-r made that up.” In late-September 2012, it was reported that Floyd spent $50,000 at a strip club called Diamonds in Atlanta. That’s a lot of money,

More seriously, over the years, Mayweather has had significant issues with women and the criminal justice system. In 2002, he pled guilty to two counts of domestic violence. In 2004, he was found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor battery for assaulting two women in a Las Vegas nightclub. Other incidents were disposed of more quietly.

Then, on December 21, 2011, a Las Vegas judge sentenced Mayweather to ninety days in jail after he pleaded guilty to a reduced battery domestic violence charge and no contest to two harassment charges in conjunction with an assault against Josie Harris (the mother of three of his children). Floyd was also ordered to attend a one-year domestic-violence counseling program and perform one hundred hours of community service.

Was Mayweather chastened by that experience? Did he become more aware of his obligations as a member of society and the responsibilities that come with fame?

Apparently not.

“Martin Luther King went to jail,” Mayweather told Michael Eric Dyson on an HBO program entitled Floyd Mayweather: Speaking Out. “Malcolm X went to jail. Am I guilty? Absolutely not. I took a plea. Sometimes they put us in a no-win situation to where you don’t have no choice but to take a plea. I didn’t want to bring my children to court.”

That theme was echoed by Leonard Ellerbe, who declared on an episode of 24/7, “All you can do is respect the man for not wanting to put his kids through a difficult process. Things are not always what they seem. I have the advantage of actually knowing what the facts are in this particular case. The public doesn’t have this information. I know that he stepped up and did what was needed to do to protect his family.”

Did Mayweather go to jail to protect his children from having to testify at trial? Or did he go to jail to avoid a longer prison term and protect himself from the public spectacle of his children telling the world what they saw?

Either way, Floyd did his children no favors by claiming on national television that they were the reason he went to jail. The children know what they saw on the night that Floyd had an altercation with their mother. If he was taking a bullet for his kids, he should have done so quietly without exposing them to further public spectacle and the taunts of other children telling them in the playground, “You’re the reason your father went to jail.”

One might also ask why Dyson (a professor of sociology at Georgetown University) didn’t confront Mayweather with the fact that Floyd’s confrontation with Josie Harris wasn’t an isolated incident; that there were two previous convictions on his record for physically abusing women.

As for Josie Harris; she was so troubled by Floyd’s denials after his plea of “no contest” to physically assaulting her in front of their children that, in April of this year, she broke a self-imposed silence and told Martin Harris of Yahoo Sports, “Did he beat me to a pulp? No. But I had bruises on my body and contusions and [a] concussion because the hits were to the back of my head.”

Somewhere in the United States tonight, a young man who thinks that Floyd Mayweather is a role model will beat up a woman. Maybe she’ll walk away with nothing more than bruises and emotional scars. Maybe he’ll kill her.

That’s the downside to uncritical glorification of Floyd Mayweather.

Also, as great a fighter as Mayweather is, there’s one flaw on his resume. He has consistently avoided the best available opposition.

A fighter doesn’t have to be bloodied and knocked down and come off the canvas to prove his greatness. A fighter can also prove that he has the heart of a legendary champion by testing himself against the best available competition.

Mayweather has done neither.

Floyd said earlier this month, “I push myself to the limit by fighting the best.”

That has all the sincerity of posturing by a political candidate.

Mayweather has some outstanding victories on his ring record. But his career has been marked by the avoidance of tough opponents in their prime.

There always seems to be someone who Mayweather is ducking. The most notable example was his several-year avoidance of Manny Pacquiao. Bob Arum (Pacquiao’s promoter) might not have wanted the fight. But Manny clearly did. And it appeared as though Floyd didn’t.

Mayweather also steered clear of Paul Williams, Antonio Margarito, and Miguel Cotto in their prime. He waited to fight Cotto until Miguel (like Shane Mosley) was a shell of his former self. Then Floyd made a show of saying that he’d fight Cotto at 154 pounds so Miguel would be at his best. But when Sergio Martinez offered to come down to 154, Floyd said that he’d only fight Martinez at 150 (an impossible weight for Sergio to make).

Thus, Frank Lotierzo writes, “Mayweather has picked his spots in one way or another throughout his career. Floyd got over big time on Juan Manuel Marquez with his weigh-in trickery at the last moment. He fought Oscar De La Hoya and barely won when Oscar was a corpse. Shane Mosley was an empty package when he finally fought him seven years after the fight truly meant anything. As terrific as Mayweather is, he’s not the Bible of boxing the way he projects himself as being. He came along when there were some other outstanding fighters at or near his weight. Yet, aside from the late Diego Corrales, he has never met any of them when the fight would have confirmed his greatness. It would be great to write about Mayweather and laud all that he has accomplished as a fighter without bringing up these inconvenient facts. But it can’t be done if you’re being intellectually honest.”

“Mayweather,” Lotierzo continues, “wouldn’t be the face of boxing today if there was an Ali, Leonard, De La Hoya, or Tyson around. But they’re long gone. Give him credit for being able to make a safety-first counter-puncher who avoided the only fight fans wanted him to deliver [into] the face of what once was the greatest sport in the world.”

Three days prior to Mayweather-Alvarez, Floyd responded to those who have criticized his choice of ring adversaries: “If they say Mayweather has handpicked his opponents; well, then my team has done a f—–g good job.”

Mayweather has a following; those who like him and those who don’t. But whatever side of the fence one is on, it’s clear that Floyd has tapped into something.

“This is a business,” Mayweather says of boxing.

Team Mayweather has played the business game brilliantly. Give manager Al Haymon and the rest of The Money Team credit for maximizing Floyd’s income, making the pie bigger and getting him a larger percentage of it. Through their efforts, Mayweather has become the epitome of what modern fighters strive to be. He has the ability to attract any opponent, determine when they fight, and enjoys the upper hand in any negotiation.

“His ability not only to understand but to capitalize on his value is unrivaled in the sport,” Tim Keown writes. Then Keown references Mayweather’s “singular brand of narcissism, ego and greed,” and notes, “It helps to exhibit an unapologetic brazenness that incites allegiance and disgust in equal measure. Indifference, as any promoter will attest, is hell on sales.”

“Love him or hate him,” Leonard Ellerbe adds, “he’s the bank vault. Love him or hate him, he’s going to make the bank drop.”

Mayweather’s box-office appeal is consistent with other trends in contemporary American culture.

Charles Jay has mused, “There is a constituency that is very attracted to the Mayweather persona. Maybe there is an overlap between that constituency and the one that enjoys the antics of Charlie Sheen.”

Carlos Acevedo opines that Floyd has led “a charmed life inside the ring if a rather charmless one outside it,” and posits, “Being nasty in public under the guise of entertainment is now as American as baseball and serial killers.”

More tellingly, Acevedo argued last year, “Mayweather generates a disproportionate amount of media coverage. Never mind the fact that probably somewhere around six million people in the U.S. saw Mayweather bushwhack Victor Ortiz [and roughly ten million saw him defeat Miguel Cotto]. Compare that, say, to the night Ken Norton faced Duane Bobick on NBC in 1977. That fight, aired on a Wednesday evening in prime-time, earned a 42% audience share, and was estimated to have been viewed by 48 million people. If we want to pretend that more than a few million people care about ‘Money,’ we have to keep listening to penny-click addicts and websites obsessed with celebrity cellulite and tanorexia.”

According to Nevada State Athletic Commission records, all five of Mayweather’s fights between the start of 2009 and mid-2013 (against Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz, Miguel Cotto, and Robert Guerrero) were contested in front of empty seats. Even with 1,459 complimentary tickets being given away, there were 139 empty seats for Mayweather-Guerrero. More troubling were credible reports that Mayweather-Guerrero registered only 850,000 pay-per-view buys. That’s a healthy number for most fights. But not for a Mayweather fight. And not for Showtime, which had spirited Mayweather away from HBO and entered into a six-fight contract with the fighter that guaranteed him $32,000,000 per fight against the revenue from domestic pay-per-view buys.

Showtime had heavily promoted Mayweather-Guerrero with documentaries, a reality-TV series, an appearance by Floyd at the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, and numerous promotional spots on CBS Sports television and CBS Sports Radio. Factoring in the cost of production and other outlays, there were estimates that the network had lost between five and ten million dollars on Mayweather-Guerrero. That might have been justified as a “loss leader” to bring Mayweather into the Showtime fold. But it couldn’t be repeated in Floyd’s next fight without speculation that corporate heads would roll.

Mayweather’s fights have been promoted in recent years by Golden Boy, which now has a strategic alliance with Showtime and Al Haymon. The idea that Golden Boy Promotions would crumble once Oscar De La Hoya stopped fighting is now an outdated fantasy. CEO Richard Schaefer has played the promotional game masterfully.

But Golden Boy has little control over Mayweather. According to Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather Promotions pays Golden Boy to handle logistics on a per-fight basis. “If you run a construction company,” Ellerbe says, “you have to hire someone to pour the cement.”

Schaefer confirms that Golden Boy presents The Money Team with a budget for each fight that includes projected revenue streams and costs (for example, fighter purses, marketing, travel, arena set-up, and its promotional fee).

Showtime could have been forgiven for thinking that guaranteeing Mayweather $32,000,000 a fight for six fights would have entitled it to the most marketable Mayweather fights possible. But there was no such assurance.

After Mayweather beat Guerrero, word spread that the frontrunner in the sweepstakes to become Floyd’s next opponent was Devon Alexander. That raised the likelihood of another sub-one-million-buy Mayweather outing and the loss to the network of another five-to-ten million dollars.

There was little point in Showtime appealing to Mayweather to upgrade the commercial viability of his opponent on grounds that Floyd is a team player. Floyd is a team player as long as it’s Team Mayweather. Thus, Showtime rolled the dice and increased Mayweather’s contractual guarantee to $41,500,000 to entice him to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

If boxing fans in America have a love-hate relationship with Mayweather, Mexican fans have a love-love relationship with Alvarez. Canelo’s resume is a bit thin. But Mayweather vs. Alvarez on Mexican Independence Day weekend was sure to sell out the MGM Grand Garden Arena and generate a massive number of pay-per-view buys.

Alvarez agreed to a financial guarantee believed to be in the neighborhood of $12,500,000. His purse as reported to the Nevada State Athletic Commission was $5,000,000. But that didn’t include the grant of Mexican television rights and other financial incentives.

The thorniest issue in negotiating the fight contracts was the issue of weight. Mayweather has filled out over the years. He’s now a full-fledged welterweight. But Alvarez fights at 154 pounds.

On May 29th, it was announced that the two men had signed to fight at a catchweight of 152 pounds. Schaefer said that there was a seven-figure penalty should either fighter fail to make weight.

Thereafter, Ellerbe stated publicly that the Alvarez camp had begun the negotiations with an offer to fight at a catchweight and declared, “His management is inept. We take advantage of those kinds of things. They suggested it. Why would we say no and do something different. They put him at a disadvantage, his management did. It wasn’t that Floyd asked for a catchweight because, absolutely, that did not happen. Floyd would have fought him regardless. His management put that out there. So if you have an idiot manager, that’s what it is.”

The Alvarez camp responded by saying that Ellerbe was lying.

“Why would I give up weight?” Canelo asked rhetorically. “I’m the 154-pound champion. When the negotiations started, they wanted me to go down to 147, then 150, then 151, finally 152. I said I’d do it to make the fight. But it’s not right that they’re lying about it. I don’t want to fight two pounds below the weight class, but it was the only way I could get the fight.”

“Being the A-side is about having leverage,” Ellerbe fired back. “We’re always going to put every opponent at a disadvantage if we can.”

Part Two of “A Look Back at Mayweather-Alvarez” will be posted on The Sweet Science tomorrow.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Straight Writes and Jabs: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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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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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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