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PREDICTION PLANET: Big Mac’s Expert Panel–Pacquiao-Bradley 2 Edition



— Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank

It’s that time of year again. A big fight beckons, so your old pal McCarson gathered picks from around the boxing world to see who will come out on top Saturday when Manny Pacquiao faces Timothy Bradley at the MGM in Las Vegas.

While the majority of TSS writers like Pacquiao to win a decision, a panel of 15 other boxing gurus ended up muuuuuch closer: 8 see Bradley winning, 6 see Manny the victor, and one abstained, on principle.

One panelist, boxing writer Matt McGrain, gave perhaps the most interesting response of the bunch. McGrain won’t pick a winner and won’t even watch the fight because he says fight fans “were robbed” back in 2012 when two boxing judges gave Bradley the nod in a bout most everyone else saw a clear Pacquiao win.

Without further adieu, here are Pacquiao-Bradley predictions from boxing’s best panel of pickers.

TSS Crew Picks Pacman 8-1, Woods Says Draw

I’m going with Tim Bradley again. I picked him in the first fight and I pick him again in the rematch. He cleaned out the junior welterweights and now is targeting the welters. Bradley by TKO. — David Avila,

I’ve never been so timid to call a fight with conviction… I can genuinely see this going either way. I’m going with Pacquiao via majority decision, with one knockdown being the difference in the fight. — Blake Hochberger,

Pacquiao won the first time and did everything right except get the decision. Manny will try and turn up the heat and pressure more this time (because he doesn’t believe Bradley can really hurt him) and Bradley will try to box and move a little more…The fight will go the distance and Pacquiao’s hand will be raised regardless of whether or not he deserves the decision. — Frank Lotierzo,

I am not going to want this fight to end. I love Bradley’s game. He continues to get better and looked great against Marquez. I would love to see Bradley fight Mayweather because of their styles. But Bradley doesn’t have an answer for Pacquiao’s speed. If I have to choose a winner, I like Pacquiao to win a close, highly competitive fight by KO. Pacquiao’s speed and timing will be the deciding factor. — Raymond Markarian,

Bradley is going about it all wrong. He convinced himself he won the first fight when all but a very few people actually believed that to be the case. He’ll go into the rematch thinking he can do the same thing and get the win. He can’t. Pacquiao will defeat him more convincingly this time and win a wide unanimous decision. — Kelsey McCarson,

Freddie, as always, is making big promises about the “Old Manny” returning. It might sound like a tired tune, but the last time he said it, Manny almost finished off Marquez, even though it didn’t quite pan out. If Freddie isn’t just blowing smoke, an aggressive Manny could be all wrong for Bradley. This is a different Tim Bradley, though. After surviving Provodnikov and legitimately beating Marquez, Bradley rightly believes he’s ready for prime time. I see a close, exciting fight with the difference being that Bradley won’t be able to really hurt Pacman. That will allow Pacquiao to eek out a tight, unanimous decision. — John Nguyen,

After Bradley beat Pacquiao by split decision in 2012, Lennox Lewis said the outcome was “maybe not worse than my draw with Holyfield but still bad nonetheless.” In that particular rematch, Holyfield performed better, but Lewis still won a unanimous decision. In this rematch, Bradley will show that he has the skills of a top-level fighter, but Pacquiao will walk away with a unanimous decision. A rubber match is inevitable. — Aaron Tallent,

Tim Bradley is good. Real damn good. I thought he’d be damaged goods after Ruslan gave him some wicked thumps. But he showed me YET AGAIN that my omniscience is a work in progress. The man has skills, and even if those skills don’t include much in the pop department, he can box a doozy. The other guy can still too, and his flashy, still-present hand speed will get judge love onApril 12. And maybe you recall, they kind of owe Pacquiao one, don’t they? I see 12 rounds that can go either way, though, and a MAJORITY DRAW. — Michael Woods,

Pacquiao’s turn to take a close, questionable call, as he’s done in Vegas a few times already. This time Arum will borrow a page from Bradley’s book and show up with a poster for Pacquiao-Bradley 3. — Phil Woolever,

Contrary to popular belief, I thought the first fight was highly competitive. I’m expecting more of the same. However, this time, whether he deserves it or not, Pacquiao will be the one who has his arm raised.Pacquiao by SD. — Lee Wylie,

Other Panelists See Bradley A Winner, 8-6, McGrain Abstains

I like Pacquiao to win a competitive unanimous decision. He will be a lot more active in the ring and throw more eye-catching shots than Bradley will. I also think Pacquiao’s power will be a big difference in the fight. He throws the type of punches that judges respond to—at least the competent ones. — Adam Abramowitz,

In their first tilt, Pacquiao did not land fractionally as often as he was expected, or in many cases seen, to do. Bradley’s performance, too, was sub-par. Pacquiao will be slower but more aggressive this time. Bradley will be quicker but less aggressive. And it will be make-up day on the scorecards: Fans and pundits will see Bradley win on effectiveness, Las Vegas judges will see Pacquiao win on activity, and acrimony will ensue. — Bart Barry,

Two years removed from a decision win he didn’t deserve, Timothy Bradley Jr. has done nothing in the interim but improve. Now, at the peak of his absolute prime, expect the versatile boxer-puncher to utilize his speed, guile and fearlessness to claim a tight decision that’s justified. Pacquiao remains one of the very elite fighters in the sport. But he’s slowing down just a bit. Look for Bradley to utilize the confidence gained in the final few rounds of their first fight when he outboxed Pacquiao to score enough points to offset the Pacman’s power shots that will likely sway the crowd in his favor. — Brian Campbell,

While I agree with the masses that Pacquiao deserved to win the first go-round in 2012, I also think the intervening two years have been kinder to Bradley. Particularly in his Marquez fight, he showed the varied skills he’ll need to handle a Manny who’s either still what he was back then, or a trifle diminished. He’s got speed, he’s got guts and he’s got the patience and the smarts to stick to a game plan that might make for a dull fight… but a successful ending. Give me Tim by a close decision, 115-113 let’s say, and get ready for the third match. — LyleFitzsimmons,

It seems that most of the questions for this fight revolve around Manny. Is he still hungry? How much has he slipped? Does he still have that old killer instinct? Bradley is solid and has many tools. However, Manny looked quite good against Rios in November. So I say he’s still got it. Pacquiao by unanimous decision. — John DiSanto,

There are very few ELITE fighters and even fewer elite fighters that love to slug it out: we are getting a combination of both in #PacBradley2. It’s going to be a battle of who has the toughest chin, and right now, I think that is Bradley. But who has the most heart? — GeorgeForeman IV, Foreman Boys Promotions

I’m still not convinced about the “not wearing socks” excuse. At the highest level, I’d imagine Bradley’s feet being conditioned to fight without socks and to also prepare for “spongy” rings. I’ve fought all over the world in different conditions. A fighter shouldn’t be surprised of the environment. Second, Bradley was able to utilize his skills against a much slower Marquez, who also took a lot of punishment from his last fight, which was with Pacquiao. Can we agree that Pacquiao is much faster than Marquez? I can’t base Bradley’s performance with Marquez being a “litmus test” of how much he’s improved. No disrespect to Bradley, he’s a great fighter, but whether he wears socks or not, I give the edge to Pacquiao winning. — boxer Ana Julaton, former world champion

I like Bradley by unanimous decision with a display of athleticism and skill. — Andy Lee, middleweight contender

PACQUIAO BY UNANIMOUS DECISION. I had Manny up by two rounds in their first fight. Even though he out-landed Bradley, in the middle round his activity level slumped after the 6th stanza. Manny is inspired for this one and I believe he will consistently press the attack this time around. In their first fight, Bradley was often able to slip Pacquiao’s third and fourth punches. The Pacman has to change that on Saturday night and score his signature long combinations. Pacquiao has no respect for Bradley’s power – which is both a plus and a minus. The minus is, of course, that Bradley could surprise him with a potent counter-right. The plus is that the power differential will make Pacquiao more comfortable staying in the pocket and throwing punches in bunches. Either way, I can’t wait for this one – two amazing fighters and ambassadors for boxing. —Gordon Marino,

Pacquiao by decision. He won the first fight, no reason to think he won’t win the second one as well, especially since he’ll be coming in hungry to right the past. — Rachel McCarson, Boxing Photographer

Not only am I not picking a winner for Pacquiao-Bradley II, I won’t be watching. The day after the first fight I wrote that “anyone who buys the sequel is in some way endorsing the decision in the first fight”, and that is how I feel about it. In the summer of 2012 we were robbed – you, me, every other boxing fan, Pacquiao, and not least of all Bradley, who supposedly came close to retiring in the wake of the hatred that enveloped him in the wake of that first ridiculous decision. Who robbed us? Some s——d that was after our money or two idiots that don’t understand boxing. Doesn’t matter. Pacquiao outclassed Bradley last time around, and the only reason there is a rematch is because of those idiots – or those criminals. My prediction is losers all round – the writers that cover it like it is a real fight, the fans that buy tickets, the fighters that got duped the first time around. Bob Arum will win though. Unlike other picks, this one is inarguably correct, and unaffected by the outcome. — Matt McGrain,

Timothy Bradley Jr. is a dangerous fighter. He’s highly skilled, determined and feels like he has something to prove. That’s a dangerous mix, especially against an opponent who has been half in and half out of boxing for the past several years. In this fight, you can expect a lot of close, competitive rounds. But when the judges award them to Bradley, this time, he’ll have earned them. He’s just more intense and more desperate to prove himself than Pacquiao. Bradley “avenges” his win in the first fight with a close unanimous decision. — Kevin McRae,

Many observors are picking Pacquiao, and understandably so. He’s come back well after the sickening knockout loss to Marquez, as he looked fairly decent against Rios last November. Personally, I thought Manny would’ve been damaged goods after Marquez planted that bomb on his chin, but he’s proved me wrong so far. But let’s see what happens when he’s hit regularly with full blooded punches and is truly tested. Bradley doesn’t need to fully commit himself – yes, I’m talking about being pretty aggressive – to win via knockout or on points. He should hang back a little bit behind the jab while using his speed and movement, occasionally stepping in with countering power punches, then swiftly departing – Marquez style.  To sum that up in a simple format: Boxing combined with sporadic attacks, making himself multi-dimensional. He’s got the speed, timing, athleticism and style to accomplish such a strategy. However, he’s got to adjust to what Manny does as the fight progresses. Another thing he needs to do is match, or surpass, Manny for workrate to hang in there when it comes to convincing the judges. Crucial. When Manny is in the mood and firing on all cylinders, he’s no joke. Although not with concrete conviction, I’ll go for Bradley on points. –fighterwriter Robbi Paterson

A lot has happened since Pacquiao and Bradley first met in the ring. The Bradley vs. Provodnikov fight is one of the most memorable I’ve seen. I remember where I was, who I was with, and thinking, “HOLY?COW.” Although Tim took quite a beating, he served one greater. I think he will do the same with Manny. This is Tim’s chance to shut people up for all the detestation after their first fight, and I think he will take full advantage of it. In other circumstances, the idea of having to avenge a win doesn’t make sense, but here it does. Hopefully this will be the final statement to bring Tim the respect he deserves. Of the Bradley fight, JMM said, “…you don’t have to knock a guy out to win.” But with Tim Bradley, maybe you do. That is something I don’t see happening. It will be a battle, and I can’t wait to see it. Bradley SD — Stephanie Trapp,

Pacman moved up to a weight class where within the past 2 years, he has not been able to knock out an opponent. Timmy is younger, and very strong-willed. Two hungry fighters, I do not see a knockout… But I see a close decision for Timothy Bradley. Unless of course that one lucky punch comes. — boxer Kaliesha West, former world champion


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



new television

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



experienced opponent

He was in against a very crafty and experienced opponent in former WBA titlist Alexander Povetkin 34-2 (24). And although he was troubled by the dangerous Russian fighting small as he tried to inch his way in and time him, AJ adjusted well and started to take the initiative and dropped and stopped Povetkin in the seventh round, retaining his WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titles and thus becoming the first fighter to ever stop Povetkin, something Wladimir Klitschko failed to do.

During the fight AJ was forced back. He had to adapt to Povetkin making him punch down and that caused him to be a little tentative, especially after being bloodied from a broken nose in the first round. And early on, AJ was a little confused and busy trying to keep Povetkin occupied from outside so he couldn’t get in on him. His most effective weapon in doing such was his left jab, delivered to the head or body, although the fight really turned when he began putting his one-two together. Then after a fairly evenly-paced bout, AJ slowed some with the hope it would lure Povetkin to close in a little harder, and he did.

As Povetkin, who came to fight, became more assertive, he became more vulnerable. AJ found the openings for his big right hand and left hook. With the first really solid right hand that bounced off his chin, Povetkin buckled and instinctively went back. Joshua pursued him and then, with near Joe Louis-like accuracy, put his right hands and hooks together, along with a beautiful right to the body in the middle of the assault and finished his game opponent.

Once again it was shown that trading with AJ is almost certain suicide. Povetkin was in great shape and would’ve been a handful for any other heavyweight in the world because he no doubt brought his A-game. Sometimes it takes AJ a little while to get going, and if you don’t do anything to bother him or wake him up, he doesn’t fight with the urgency of a “Smokin” Joe Frazier. However, when you wake him up and force him to cut loose, he’s so dangerous that he doesn’t need too many clean shots to end it. And making Joshua more lethal is that he has both short and inside power in both hands.

After months of hearing how Povetkin was the most serious threat to Joshua, that’s now finished business. Prior to the bout The Ring magazine rated the top six heavyweights in the world as follows…..Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker, in that order. Now Joshua is 3-0 (2) versus Povetkin, Whyte and Parker which squashes the narrative that he has fought weaker opposition than WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) who has only faced Ortiz among the top six.

Today, the most widely levied criticism of any elite fighter is that he didn’t fight the best man or men in his division. Fighters can’t control who their contemporaries are but they can control fighting the best of their era. Rocky Marciano’s era wasn’t stellar, but he fought every top fighter who was in line to challenge him. Floyd Mayweather fought in a stout era – the difference is an overwhelming majority of his bouts with big name opponents were strategically manipulated so that he faced them on the downside of their career – and that’s a fact, not a theory.

Forty years after his last victory in a title fight, Muhammad Ali is respected and revered as a fighter even by those who don’t claim to be a fan of his. Why? He wasn’t the most fundamental boxer in heavyweight history nor was he the biggest puncher, and not all of his fights were edge of your seat exciting. The thing that’s often cited as to why he was a marvel is that he fought the best of the best during one of the deepest eras in heavyweight history. There were a few times between 1975-77 that he held a win over every fighter ranked among The Ring magazine’s top-10. Sure he fought a few Brian London’s and Jean Pierre Coopman’s, but London was encompassed by Sonny Liston and Ernie Terrell during the 1960s and Coopman by Joe Frazier and Ken Norton during the 1970s.

Anthony Joshua hasn’t yet sniffed the greatness of Ali on many levels, but he is on the same trajectory in regards to meeting and defeating the best of his generation. By the end of this month, the WBC heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and former champ Tyson Fury will likely become official with them meeting in early December. And regardless of who wins, Joshua, if he really wants to etch a great legacy, must pressure the winner to meet him in their next bout. In addition to that, he must tell his brain, aka Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, to forget about winning the purse war if it is the only stumbling block. If the winner of Wilder-Fury is impressive, he will have earned a 50-50 split.

During the faux negotiations between the Joshua and Wilder camps this past summer the purse split was the focal point. And prior to the prospect of Wilder and Fury meeting, Joshua clearly held the better hand based on his resume and owning three titles to Wilder’s single title.  But the Wilder-Fury winner will have closed the gap and Joshua needs to be next while the fighters are at or near their prime. The fact is Joshua versus the Wilder/Fury winner will be the most widely anticipated fight in the heavyweight division since Lewis-Tyson and maybe even since Tyson-Holyfield I. The onus is on the fighters to make it happen and they both have the clout to make sure it does, especially Joshua.

Interviewed in the ring after dispatching Povetkin, AJ said it didn’t matter to him who he fought next as long as it’s Wilder or Fury, but it was obvious that he preferred Wilder. A lot depends on how Wilder fares with Fury, but until then, here’s what we know…..Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz are about on the same level; having never faced each other, it’s a tossup as to who’d win. Both Joshua and Wilder scored impressive stoppages over Povetkin and Ortiz respectively…AJ needed seven rounds and Deontay needed ten rounds. During his bout with Ortiz, Wilder was knocked around the ring and had to endure a few big exchanges, some of which he came out second-best. Wilder was also nearly stopped in the seventh round but battled back, summoning great courage and reserve to win a fight he was losing. Against Povetkin, Joshua was more troubled than he was beaten up. And once he found his range and pace and began putting his punches together, the fight ultimately ended when AJ got off with his best stuff. In essence, Joshua was more impressive against Povetkin and had fewer close calls than did Wilder against Ortiz.

Between now and the time Wilder fights Tyson Fury, it’ll be debated as to who was more impressive – Joshua against Povetkin or Wilder against Ortiz; the answer is clearly Joshua for the reasons stated. Moreover, when analyzing a fight, A + B doesn’t equal C. Joshua will be favored over either Wilder or Fury, but probably along the line of 7-5 and nothing will change that.

The thing that emerged from Joshua dismantling Povetkin is that AJ recaptured some of the limelight and swag he ceded to Wilder this past March. AJ is again the fighter to beat in the heavyweight division and will probably get the bigger purse split regardless of whether he faces Wilder and Fury.

That said, he better not let the fight fall through over it!

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans



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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