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Keith Thurman Can Bomb In the Ring, and Land Power Shots Outside, Too

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Much of the air in the room of the sport has been sucked up by the megastars Manny Pacquiao (who gloved up and beat Tim Bradley on April 12) and Floyd Mayweather (who takes on Marcos Maidana May 3 in Vegas) in the last six weeks or so. To the point that, other cards and other fighters who likely deserve more attention, and more media buzz, have suffered.

One such soul is Keith “One Time” Thurman, a 25-year-old Florida resident stepping into the ring, and looking to defend his WBA interim welterweight crown, on Saturday night in California.

First we all went ga-ga over Manny, and this week we’ve been starting to perk antennae to near max efficiency as we count down to Mayweather’s first tangle of the year.

I wanted to rectify that, just a bit, and chat with the young gun who in the last year has started to have people talk about him as a pound for pound top 10 candidate. I wondered if he felt the same, that his Saturday scrap, topping a Golden Boy card, and a triple-header on Showtime, was under radar somewhat.

“My true opinion is,” he said, pausing for effect, “I don’t know and I don’t care. My job is to step in that ring, and perform, and I will put on a great performance.”

The buzz factor has also been limited by the choice of opposition; Julio Diaz is 40-9-1, 34-years-old, and coming off a draw, and two losses. He is excessively fortunate to be given this opportunity against two-fisted banger Thurman. “I was hoping for a bigger challenge,” Thurman admitted. “But they gave me this test. It’s a stay busy fight for me.” He said that he is pleased in knowing the true die-hard fans will watch the tussle, which he termed “high risk, little reward.” He noted that Diaz is likely to be fueled by the understanding that he NEEDS to win, or his window will close with a crash. “No, I don’t believe he is in my league, and I believe I will outclass him.”

Only a fool looks past the task in front of him; but it’s not unwise to at least ponder the roads that might be taken further along the journey. Thurman told me he can easily say a road leading to Shawn Porter (24-0 with 15 KOs), the 26-year-old Ohio resident who defended his WBC welter title against Brooklyn’s Paul Malignaggi on April 19, notching a TKO4. Thurman didn’t go out of his way to shower Porter with praise, however. He told TSS that he thought Malignaggi turned in “one of the worst performances of his career. It was a bad boxing performance, for a guy who knows a lot about fighting. I think it has to do with ego, I think he underestimated Porter. He never had his hands up, for four rounds! He could’ve blocked those jumping left hooks.” I thought Porter was simply too strong for Malignaggi and that the startegy might have been immaterial, because of the power edge, and told Thurman that concept. He continued, noting that Malignaggi was susceptible to power brokers when he fought at 140 pounds, and should really have used a different gameplan, should have run some more to lessen the number of shots he was eating. (Note: I reached out to Malignaggi, to get a response, and heard back. “It’s fine, all fighters are allowed to have their opinion,” Malignaggi told me. “Thurman is a young man, on some things he is ignorant, but he’s got that youthful ‘jump the gun’ mentality, we all have it and we all go through it. I have my own opinions and I feel strongly about what happened on Saturday night, there’s no need for the back and forth from me, however. I will leave it at Porter fought a good fight and was VERY well prepared to fight.”)

“I know me and Porter are going to fight,” Thurman continued. In fact, he knew that before anyone else brought up the idea, he said. Both are part of the class of 2008, Thurman said, and he’s sparred with Porter previously. He said that the styles will work in his favor when he does tangle with Porter, because he has a higher caliber of firepower to draw on.

“I do respect his power,” he said, “but I seem to find a way to land big punches” while Porter more so grinds you down. “At any given point, in any given round, I have the ability to put you down,” Thurman stated. “And I would love to fight Shawn Porter. When we meet up, there will be only one remaining young, undefeated welterweight. It would be a terrific, fan friendly fight, and we’d see who is the cream of the crop. And the winner would deserve a shot at Mayweather. It could be 2015, or whenever. The longer Floyd stays in it, he will have to answer to one of these young dogs coming up.”

I love the idea of a Thurman-Porter clash taking place, as an eliminator, with the winner to get a shot at the Mayweather lotto ticket. Thurman is down with that, he said. He expects to handle Porter when and if that pairing is made. And yes, he’d adore a shot at Floyd. He’d take it ASAP, or later.

“I’m ready now,” he said. “I’ll be more ready later. The older he gets, the more gray hairs he gets, and wrinkles on his forehead….I’m coming to my prime, he will be fading out of his. He can postpone it till his last hurrah if he wants.”

Thurman noted, as have many on message boards, that Floyd has chosen, in his last five fights, a fighter of Puerto Rican extraction, a Puerto Rican, a Mexican-American, a Mexican, and now a Latino, Marcos Maidana of Argentina. “With all due respect, I love the sport,” he said, “and I’m mixed, African-American and Caucasian, my mom is white, my father is black, whoever says that on a message board knows their Mayweather history. He’s fought more Latinos than Africans or African-Americans.” Thurman said Floyd is canny to attach his fights to Latino holidays, which helps insure good PPV numbers, from a marketing perspective, because Latinos tend to regard boxing higher on the sports food chain than most other racial/ethnic classes. Thurman noted that African-Americans, like Shane Mosley, and Zab Judah, and Chop Chop Corley, had more luck finding Mayweather than his recent opponents did, for whatever that’s worth.

“Again, with all due respect, boxing is one of the most racial sports,” he said. “It’s almost always a Mexican vs. an American, a Puerto Rican versus a Mexican, a black versus a white, etc. Fighters are always representing their heritage. Basically, I’d like to see diversity in Mayweathers’ choices,” Thurman said, in wrapping up.

My take: Thurman is coming into his own in the ring, and finding his place outside, as a talker, as a fight seller, as a self-marketer. Or, more appropriately perhaps, WE are simply finding out in Thurman what has been there in front of us for a spell. Those megastars, and our perhaps excessive attention paid to them, maybe do a small disservice to the sport as a whole, because it means we don’t spread the wealth of coverage and attention around like we should.

Readers, talk to me…how do you see Thurman’s near-term arc playing out? What would Thurman-Porter look like? And is Thurman a stellar candidate to face Floyd, and would he have a decent chance to beat Mayweather?

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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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