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Froch-Groves II Will Pack Wembley, Settle The Score

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Just over two weeks ago a historic deal was announced for these two pugilists, Carl Froch (34-2, 23 KOs), the WBA/IBF super-middleweight champion, and George Groves (20-1, 15 KOs), to finally sort out their differences inside a 90,000, “blood red,” seated stadium.

The anticipation for the May 31 rematch has obviously overwhelmed not just the boxing aficionados, but also people with very little interest in the sport at all, many of whom will never have seen a live boxing match of notable significance in their lives – that’s until they meet their date with destiny.

Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, the promoter of the event, has pulled off a serious coup regarding the live gate attendance for the event. It would be perfectly legit to say he hasn’t vaulted ticket sales through the retractable Wembley roof, but rather he’s blown it off completely after detonating the semtex with a blasting cap. 60,000 tickets were shifted inside an hour. Sky TV are predicting Box Office pay-per-view buys to hit a million, potentially worth in the region of £17m. The broadcasting rights have gone international to an absurd degree, as over 100 countries are set up for transmission.

Eddie, the dark haired and charming boxing salesman, has went one better than his dad, Barry, who managed to get a figured amount of around 44,000 into Old Trafford for the WBC/WBO super-middleweight title rematch between Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn, 21 years ago. On May 31, after streaming out of the London Underground, jumping out parked cars, or by whatever means necessary regarding transport to the battle, thousands upon thousands of intense spectators, young and old – some having just drowned themselves profusely in large proportions of alcohol while others simply walk in a straight line – will eagerly swagger along Wembley Way towards a stadium befitting of a 21st century clash between two Roman Gladiators.

At the present time, if you don’t suffer from a severe and debilitating case of long-term memory loss, as you very well know, they sure aren’t Romans. Froch, 36, is from the city of Nottingham, with Groves, 25, being a Londoner.

However, these two gladiators won’t stand and trade lunatically until a sure death occurs. Intentional headbutts and low blows aside, their physical confrontation will be conducted in a professional and dignified manner – hopefully. They’ll both warm-up in their respective dressing rooms, get each fist bandaged and gloved by a member of their training camps to the formulated Marquess of Queensberry Rules, then march themselves towards a squared ring for a possible thirty-six minutes of extreme violence.

They’ll both meet centre ring, producing a mirrored symmetry image as they stare intently into each others’ eyes, touch gloves, retreat to their corners, and get ready to physically catapult at each other, wholeheartedly, while seeking a high degree of finessed skill and toughness: spiteful jabs, millisecond feints, rocket launching right hands, rib evaporating body punches, combined with durability in equal measures as a Siberian Larch made church. Hold on… Many Siberian Larch – referred to as “The Tree of Eternity” – made churches have ultimately been standing in existence for over 800 years, whereas Froch’s chin lasted a mere two minutes and forty-two seconds against Groves during their first encounter.

His guard down, balance all over the place, rushing forward, straight up and down as a lampost, Froch handed over his nickname, “The Cobra,” to the awaiting Groves, who simply said, “thank you very much,” before taking a slight step back and flooring the champion, heavily, with a straight right hand down the pipe.

Froch’s relatively limited defense throughout the course of his career couldn’t have been termed as even “frail,” because it would suffice to say it never existed during those alarming moments. If it wasn’t for the sounding of a bell, well, Froch might well have been saved by the referee instead. Thereafter…..Groves, exuding confidence, was springing forward with authoriative, free flowing, jabs. Very rarely did he miss the target with his purposeful offense. As was the case during the first round, his right hand – the punch Groves would later say had Froch “buzzed” on numerous occasions – would go on to become a regular and useful weapon against his slower campatriot throughout the contest.

During round four, technical deficiencies of the champion were evidently there in abundance, again. Groves launched a right hand from long range which, realistically, shouldn’t have found its target. Froch pulling back in a straight line, hands down, wearing concrete boots, almost invited the punch to land on his chin, making no attempt to either slip it with head movement or quickly step to the side and counter-punch. Froch was physically tight and tentative. His jab, usually a ramrod, was so soft it would’ve struggled to awaken a light sleeper had it hit one’s bedroom door.

Throughout the vast majority of the contest, especially the early rounds, Groves showed that he wouldn’t voluntary back pedal, which obviously would’ve allowed the champion to gain momentum with his two-fisted attacks. Lucian Bute showed that backing away from Froch can lead to catastrophic consequences – he was mercilessly steamrolled inside 3 rounds. Groves was always within distance, solidly balanced, defense tight, picking his moments to either lead off or counter, making Froch unsure in almost everything he attempted. Yes, Froch did have his moments during rounds seven and eight but he was barely, if ever, significantly impressive with his work.

After eight completed rounds, Groves was certainly ahead – out thinking, out boxing and out punching the champion. When the controversial stoppage came in favor of the champion, it was a surprising one, as Groves was well balanced with his punching technique undamaged, too. Fighters who are totally “gone” and need to be saved by the referee rarely, if ever, deliver any ability of being able to fire back at their opponent with solid punching technique, which Groves showed seconds before the stoppage. See, it’s not about how many blows to the head or body a fighter receives which should determine the conclusion of a stoppage. First and foremost, well, to a certain degree,  it’s paramountly the state of the fighter’s consciousness and physical well being.

My mind is cast back to the McCullough-Larios rematch in Las Vegas a few years ago, when Dr. Margaret Goodman stopped the fight before the start of the last round. Goodman, a highly respected ring physician in Nevada at the time, thought McCullough had sustained far too many powerful punches over the duration of the fight, even though he never looked seriously hurt or close to being knocked down.

Was Groves hurt? Yes, slightly. But his consciousness wasn’t ripped away from his soul enough for a stoppage to be forced by referee Howard Foster. He was given neither the chance to recuperate himself nor the opportunity to be accurately assessed by the referee.

Before the referee jumped in to stop the fight, Froch was defintely the fighter with all the momentum on his side. Yes. But, in my opinion, had he been allowed to continue, who’s to say Groves wouldn’t have knocked Froch out with a single blow for a full 10 count just a handful of seconds after the exact point when the referee halted the contest?

The IBF – who forced the rematch – statement from Jan. 24: “The panel felt that in the ninth round Groves should have been allowed to continue as he did not appear to be seriously hurt and was counter-punching and attempting to move the action away from the ropes at the time of the stoppage. In addition, the referee waved off the fight from behind Groves instead of in front of him and did not look into his eyes. Groves showed no signs of being hurt after the stoppage. The panel felt it was an improper stoppage… it has been determined that there was inappropriate conduct by the referee that affected the outcome of the fight.”

If Froch allows the younger Groves to dilute his confidence so thoroughly with psychological mind games during the build-up to the rematch that his decision making is, yet again, amateurish and obscured when he steps into the ring, his faculties might well end up being scattered over the canvas, only this time, like a dead man’s ashes.

The volcanic feud: The gas started to simmer during a heated sparring session between the pair at a Sheffield gym in 2010. It manifested itself to boiling point when Froch controversially stopped Groves last November in Manchester – after nine rounds of fistic mayhem. At Wembley Stadium, London, on May. 31, the inevitable eruption of lava might well conclude proceedings once and for all.

Robbi Paterson is a feature writer/analyst who has contributed to various boxing websites, including TheSweetScience.com.

He can be reached at Oscar_no1@hotmail.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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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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