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The Road To Hopkins-Murat, Part 1

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I’m not all that much of a traveling man, for a few reasons. Mostly, their names are Annabelle and Juliette. Bella is 6 1/2 and Jules is 3, and I decided early on that I would try and see them a lot, and not be slave to a grind, and give so much of myself to The Man, and miss seeing those precious moments as they grew up, as my father and so many other fathers and parents did, and do. Not to be judgmental at all; with how hard it is to make ends meet, let alone get ahead, I full well understand that many if not most caregivers don’t have the luxury of crafting their work-life balance as I have. And to be sure, there has been a sacrifice, financially and, arguably, in career advancement, as a result of my choice. But I do not often regret the choice. I can hustle to make more money and I have enough belief in self to know that I will get to where I want to be on the so-called ladder…

That said, with the girls getting older, I’ve decided I will make myself more available for travel, and will hop in a car or plane more often to see events in farther flung locations than Manhattan and Brooklyn. Though I do still maintain–sorry George Kimball—that by and large I can communicate to readers more completely what happens in a fight when I cover it off TV, with my DVR as trusty sidekick, than I can on site.

I did the best I could to communicate what went down at Atlantic City, at Boardwalk Hall, on Saturday night, and, off a suggestion from Kelsey McCarson, decided I’d do a travelogue-type piece to give a sense of the journey to and from the Golden Boy/Showtime promotion and the scraps themselves.

Sunday 2 PM ET I’m about to hop into my ride. I booked a Zipcar for the 2 1/2 hour drive from Park Slope, Brooklyn to AC. Know what a Zipcar is? It’s a car that you rent, by the hour or day, which you pick up and drop off a various locations. It’s like renting a car, but different, in that you are afforded more flexibility of usage. You can book one for as little as two hours, for example. And when you’re done with it at 2 AM, or whatever, you can drop it off where you picked it up. They give you a card, which you swipe on a transponder on the car, to lock it or unlock it. Wait, we don’t get any sponsor money from Zipcar, why am I digressing in that direction? Anyway, I got into the Honda something-or-other, and head to AC, solo.

I should be fine on time, as the first event scheduled is a presser, featuring Golden Boy boss Richard Schaefer and Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza, promising an announcement of some sort. Will they trot out Adrien Broner and Dec. 14 foe Marcos Maidana? We shall have to see.

3:15 PM The ride is pretty uneventful. I drink a Pepsi enroute, and ponder what will go down. I expect Karo Murat to be underwhelming and think Bernard Hopkins will show more aggression in this bout than we’ve seen from him of late, because Murat isn’t in the same ballpark as recent foes like Tavoris Cloud and Chad Dawson. I’ve debated on social media if he will indeed gun for a KO as he’s promised. Some maintain he won’t, but I’m a guy who. for better or worse, pretty much takes people at face value, unless it is otherwise proven to me. Hopkins says he will gun, I believe him.

5:35 PM On the AC Expressway and it smells good! I’ve been put off by previous occasions in AC, when industrial stench seeps into the cars’ ducts, and usually find myself shaking my head at that. How can you expect to lure patrons to your attractions when industrial-strength stench assaults their noses as they get close to the destination? Couldn’t the AC powers that be contract with Febreze to figure out a massive-scale de-stenching method?

5:40 PM I am 20 miles under the speed limit as I look at signs to point to which direction Boardwalk Hall is. I forgot the GPS and am using the phone for that purpose, which I don’t like to do, as it means taking ones’ eyes off the rode. But I make it without incident. Arghh…pet peeves are piling up though. I don’t see a sign to direct me to Boardwalk Hall. When I am President, elected in Neveruary, I will mandate SIGNS EVERYWHERE. Assume everyone is a clueless tourist, and put signs everywhere to aid them. End rant. 5:47 I steer the Honda into a parking garage, and am ready to pay a $20 fee. A worker is about to take the bill, when a co-worker, a sharp sort, hears me say I’m media, and tells me there is comp parking for media. I tip my cap to her and thank her for her professionalism. None of my outlets see fit to compensate me for travel expenses so I try to be extra mindful of outlays. (Thus, I saved myself a good $100 by booking a room seven miles from the Boardwalk, at a Best Western. And I’m so happy to report that I donated that $100 to the family of fallen fighter Frankie Leal, so that worked out real well.)

6:05 PM The media room is buzzing a bit, and I say hi to some pals, like Jayson Colon of Fight Images, and his cousin Carlos. We three often hit a diner together after shows at Barclays Center. Carlos cracks me up by answering “the left side of the menu” when I ask him what he’s having. Never fails to get me. (He will be uploading videos til 4:30 AM tonight though, and Jayson is heading off to cavort postfight at a Halloween party so we’ll reconvene at Barclays, Dec. 7, I guess.)

6:11 PM Top dog Dan Rafael enters, walks by, pats me on the back and says, “All in good fun.” He’s referencing a little Twitter back and forth we had the week before, about a prospective Mayweather-Hopkins fight. It’s all good. Each to his own, I like to say, though I do admit I will, if I haven’t had my coffee, or it’s late, I will get salty defending my turf, or methods or principles. I confess, the level of certainty in some circles of people saying that Mayweather-Hopkins could NEVER happen leaves me bewildered. This is the boxing business, the unexpected always occurs. Could that fight make money? Damn right. And that is why I’d never be so bold as to summarily dismiss it occurring. Of course, Dan is dialed in, and maybe he knows something I don’t, maybe Floyd has told him to his face that it could never happen. If so, hopefully he will share that with all his faithful readers, including me!

6:21 PM I bag a plate and a chicken breast and some salad, and sit next to Harold Lederman of HBO and Tom Casino, the Showtime photog. “I’m with you veterans because, no offense to those younger dudes, but you guys have the best stories!” I tell the sages. Harold regales me with a couple anecdotes, and we three chuckle copiously and then I head to my computer, because Schaefer and Espinoza are about to begin.

6:45 PM Good stuff; Golden Boy scrapped their Nov. 30 show and boiled down the product from three cards, into two super cards. They will run in Brooklyn on Dec. 7, and San Antonio Dec. 14. Espinoza presents the move as a thank you to fans, and social media response is good. Like to see suits responding to the market, as these guys did by taking the Broner-Maidana fight off pay-per-view, and putting it on “regular” Showtime. (I’m jazzed, I admit, for the Dec. 7 card, and am going to snag some tickets, and lure the wife, and some of her pals, to attend the fights. She hasn’t yet been to Barclays Center, and that’s criminal, as we live a couple minutes from the building.)With word that Beibut Shumenov is on the Dec. 14 card, you have to wonder if Schaefer is holding the Shumie card for Hopkins, if a mega-fight doesn’t pan out for B-Hop…or he looks so-so against Murat, and it is determined that it is smarter for him to do his things against B-level fighters, not ‘A’ guys.

7:30 PM Keith Idec, the NJ writer who is a rock-solid reporter, old school style, shoot the breeze as an undercard fight plays out. Our train of thought is interrupted as the emcee Tattoo, a recent staple of Golden Boy events, sits to Keith’s left, and does his thing. He hypes this card, and upcoming events, loudly. He’s into it, and is actually dripping sweat from the intensity of effort. It’s not my thing, I don’t care for the patter, but at least there is effort, at getting current. I always lobby for jugglers and fire eaters performing in ring during down time, but have never had any receptivity on the part of promoters when I bring it up. Come to think of it I may have perked Cedric Kushner’s interest a few years back, but nothing came of it.

7:41 PM This hasn’t been much reported, but some folks recall that Atlantic City has been an…eventful place for Gabriel Rosado, set to meet Peter Quillin (pictured doing postfight flip, in Tom Casino-Showtime photo), WBO middleweight champ. Rosado was charged with punching a uniformed cop in the face a few hours after notching a TKO5 win on July 15, 2011. A source I won’t name tells me that the locals haven’t forgotten the incident. Rosado is on a list, and one casino won’t let him stay in one of their rooms, allegedly. Is it possible the cop he was accused of striking will be on site, working during his fight? That is the scuttle butt. Boxing, theater of the unexpected…

7:51 PM Argh. I’m annoyed. The internet doesn’t work here, for me or anyone, and I hear a press person say that happens here a lot. This is 2013, I grumble on Twitter, no excuse for this. Grumbling on Twitter works; I’ve grumbled of late about Aetna and Hootsuite and Time Warner, and reps for each reached out to me. No one reaches out to soothe me from Boardwalk Hall, alas. The issue gets resolved before Deontay Wilder’s fight, so the story has a happy ending. Props to Lisa Milner and Kelly Swanson, of Swanson Communications, for hustling, staying on it, and making sure the issue was resolved.

9:20 PM We’re cracking up. A rooter for Nicolai Firtha, Wilders’ foe, keeps yelling, “Big miss!” when Wilder is errant. Hey, you got to find silver lining where and when you can. Firtha proves game but succumbs to the Alabaman, who most people I chat with seem to think looks greener than you’d like to see when contemplating step-up fights. A Twitter follower mentioned Sherman Williams as a good next step. I think that is more appropriate than a Klitschko, Stiverne or Arreola, but I’m not a promoter or manager.

10:32 PM Hmm, not close enough to assess the cut which had the doc stop the Peter Quillin-Gabriel Rosado fight after round nine ended. After, Rosado complained that he wanted to go on, that the fans were robbed as the fight was going into the championship rounds and that Arturo Gatti had been given the benefit of the doubt when much more compromised than Rosado. Good points, all. I try not to second guess docs or refs, but we do have to allow for the understanding that these athletes are a different breed than us, willing to leave pieces of themselves, literal pieces, indeed, in the ring, in the quest for victory, and that must be respected. I’m all for a rematch, as the fighters seemed to be. This makes even more sense since 160 pounds features Sergio Martinez and Gennady Golovkin, who fight under the HBO umbrella, leaving Quillin a lack of potential foes.

11:15 PM Hey, this Murat doesn’t stink. He’s combative, sturdy, energized, and is using some tactics that Hopkins gets accused of bringing to the table. Guy knows this is a “fight,” and is acting accordingly. Hopkins, about five times, does indeed ramp up the pressure, usually after tagging the Iraqi with a solid launch, but he can’t end his KO drought. He tries though, and he engages in round nine the zestiest trading he’s done in years. Murat actually gets the better of it, arguably, and that sticks in my mind as I ponder a Hopkins-Mayweather fight during the postfight presser. Bernard’s quick hands surprised Murat all night, as leads that shouldn’t have landed did. But his reaction time looked like that of a “normal” 35 year old, perhaps. Did Floyd see that and did that lead him to increase his open-mindedness to going to 160?

11:55 PM Steve Smoger is getting flak from press for being too chummy with Hopkins, and for shoving Murat back. People wonder if he’s too far past his prime. Not sure about that…But I think he might be a victim of social media. He’s done the shove-the-underdog thing before, I read one of my clips which noted how he did it inappropriately to Miguel Espino against Kelly Pavlik. But today, actions such as this get velocitized on Twitter, and are more so made a big deal of, because people love to harp on bad stuff. Smoger might want to dial back on the overt displays of chumminess moving forward, I think, it doesn’t play well. He has always been a guy to show love, hug guys, kiss them post-fight, on their sweaty skulls, but you have to spread the love, your honor.

12:18 AM They talked heated trash before, but respect was forged in the ring. Quillin and Rosado chat, and hug, and pose for photos together. I whispered to Quillin that I felt for him when hearing that his wife miscarried during his camp. “That’s bigger than any of this,” I said. We hugged. Got to be human beings…

12:32 AM Hopkins tells us at post-fight presser THIS is why he never takes any fight lightly. Everyone steps up their game to face him. I dare say Murat did. Bernard says he’s love to collect all the belts at 175 but politics makes that hard…so he’s more than game to carve down to 160, and fight Floyd. Naysayers, stop it. I know “it’s absurd.”

I was in AC for Hopkins’ win over Kelly Pavlik, in 2008, and was struck then by how tight Hopkins seemed to be with Schaefer. They are even closer now! The Swiss banker and the ex penitentiary dude from Philly, go figure. There’s a reality show there…

1:06 AM I am going back and forth, foolishly, with some idiot on Twitter. Fern_FNCA tweeted, “Someone please put a stop to @Woodsy1069 and his ridiculous and continued speculation of a BHop vs Floyd fight. It’s simply pathetic.” I’m @Woodsy1069, for the record. Never heard of this kid, who says he’s a “video correspondent.” To me, he’s a cocky kid who is welcome to tell me this to my face, if he wants to, but instead acts the ultra-confident bigshot on Twitter. Which is OK, usually, but it’s been a long day, and the little one got up at 2 AM, and kept me and her mom up, so I’m XL salty. So I get testy…which is a waste of time. I do submit, though, that people, in an effort to make waves, do stir it up these days, just for attention. He got it…But I do take slight offense, as 1) Hopkins brought it up 2) promoter Schaefer said he’s consider the fight 3) my readers, judging by the hits, enjoy the topic and 4) I’d point out that I have been doing this awhile and think I have decent judgment of what is “news” and what should be not treated as newsworthy. So for this Twitter tough guy to tell me it’s “pathetic”….Shake my head. Whatev. Free country. Free to be a schmuck on Twitter.

1:39 AM I have that annoyance behind me, and now I’m headed off with my pal Mitch Abramson, from the NY Daily News. We’re going to meet our pal, Zach Levin, who is chilling with some pals at a local landmark, The Irish Pub. So I’m told, anyway, I don’t get out much, and put a cork in the jug back in 1995.

Check back here for Part 2, which will include my chat with boxing super fan Steve Ferrone, who more of you might know as a Heartbreaker, and the drummer in Tom Petty’s band.

Follow Woods on Twitter here.

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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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