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PREDICTION PAGE: Martinez or Cotto…Who Do Ya Like?

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Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez will lock horns at a historical temple on June 7.

Madison Square Garden, New York…Often referred to as the “Mecca of Boxing,” isn’t quite the major host venue of the sport it once was in decades gone by – the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

Back in the early 70’s, promoters Bob Arum and Don King began to catapult their nomadic businesses westward to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas. During the 80’s and 90’s, the Garden firmly took a back seat as the outdoor venue, Caesars Palace, along with other Vegas hotel & casinos, became the new magnetic ground for the sport’s promoters to ply their trade. Great boxers like Holmes, Leonard, Hagler, Holyfield and De La Hoya, among many other names of hefty status, had the finest moments of their careers upon a temporarily constructed venue within the confinement of a car park at the rear of Caesars Palace.

With that said, the Garden never went truly out the window during the 80’s and 90’s. Middleweight king Marvin Hagler had one of the best and most convincing wins of his career inside the arena the night he rematched Mustafa Hamsho (Oct 19, 1984). He dominated contender Hamsho – stopping him inside the third of a scheduled 15 rounds. Hagler, the undisputed champion at 160 pounds, didn’t leave those tornadic fists behind at the Garden that particular night, though, as six months later (Apr 15, 1985) he would carry them into the ring again when he evaporated Thomas Hearns – within the same amounted rounds he crushed Hamsho – at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Of more recent times, Bernard Hopkins had arguably the greatest moment of his long and illustrious career at the Garden, toppling the undefeated Felix Trinidad (Sep 29, 2001) in the 12th and last round. Hopkins, regularly cited among knowledgeable observers as the greatest middleweight since Hagler, moved through the gears as the fight progressed with a mixture of subtle punch-picking from the outside and tremendous infighting. Trinidad, a Puerto Rican, used to going through his opponents like a snow plow, was reduced to a heap on the canvas as Hopkins sunk to his knees to celebrate during that fateful final round.

Sergio Martinez (55-2-2, 28 KO’s), the WBC middleweight champion from Argentina, with his dazzling matinee idol looks, and Miguel Cotto (38-4, 31 KO’s) of Puerto Rico, with an earned reputation as a take-on-all-comers sort, will both be seeking to solidify themselves into the highest spot possible with a win against each other when it comes to the “pound for pound” reckoning, behind Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward.

Weigh-in: Cotto 155 lbs; Martintez 158. 8 lbs.

Here are some predictions from fight game experts:

Jeff Mayweather, Proboxinginsider.com and Boxing/MMA trainer: I think it should be a very interesting fight. No one really knows what Martinez will show up. Cotto is a very tough customer but I think will be out gunned in this one.

Robbi Paterson, TSS : I think Martinez will win. But how he wins is another matter altogether. If he struggles with movement due to his recently operated knee, he’ll probably sneak out of the Garden with a close decision. It’s extremely crucial Cotto adjusts his height as he’s advancing, and he must do so behind his jab, too. He can’t solely rely on dropping into mid-range or inside without throwing his jab first. He can shrink the gap by stepping in with long strides behind the jab, then bring in his hooks and body punches thereafter. However, I think Martinez has enough tools to beat his smaller foe. It will be entertaining for as long as it lasts.

Matt Hamilton, ESNewsreporting.com: I feel that Sergio Martinez has more left in the tank. Having said that there are questions for Maravilla to answer. He’s been inactive and has lost – in impartial eyes – the majority for his last 13 rounds in a professional ring. A catchweight of 159 lbs, whilst an affront to purists still favors the Argentine, as Cotto has never scaled more than 154lbs. Additionally, Cotto is 6-4 in his last ten – 27-0 at 140lbs or below but 4-2 at 154lbs – so I’m very bullish on his prospects at, effectively, middleweight. Personally and frankly both guys are well past their best – Cotto is simply further down that downward spiral for me.

James Smith, Inthiscornertv.com: Unless Sergio has completely come undone due to age and all the injuries, he is simply too big, fast, powerful and athletic for Cotto and stops him late.

Rudy Hernandez, Los Angeles based trainer: I think it’s a very interesting fight. Most believe that Martinez will be too big and strong for Cotto. I didn’t think that Martinez was that big. I like Cotto to win this fight by decision – and be the first Puerto Rican fighter to win titles in four different divisions. I think Martinez is a broken and won’t be the fighter he was when he fought Chavez.

James Ali Bashir, trainer: I think it’s a terrible match up for Cotto. If Martinez’s injuries and inactivity haven’t set him back too far he’ll beat Miguel up – probably by decision or late stoppage. I just don’t see Miguel adjusting to Sergio’s awkwarndess – and he’ll be eating some vicious shots. No doubt, Martinez.

Sean Crose, Boxinginsider.com: We’re hearing a lot of talk about knockouts leading up to this fight. Thing is, I don’t think we’re going to see one. That doesn’t mean this fight won’t be a war, though. I expect Cotto to really surprise Martinez early and take it to him – sort of the way Maidana took it Floyd early on. In the end, however, I see Martinez’ athleticism and will power carrying the night. Martinez by split decision in a seasaw battle.

Ben Doughty, TipTV.co.uk: I’m going with Martinez on points. Neither are the fighter they once were. But I think Maravilla still has enough smarts to repel the challenge of a smaller Cotto, who was also bested by another slick southpaw in Austin Trout.

Bernard Fernandez, TSS, award-winning journalist: It remains to be seen whether Sergio Martinez, who was very nearly a medical invalid for at least a half-year after last year’s gimpy points victory over Martin Murray, has fully restored his body at age 38. But maybe 90 percent is good enough for “Maravilla” against a very capable challenger in Miguel Cotto, who will be making his first appearance at middleweight. I think Martinez feels he has something to prove to all the doubters and wins by late stoppage.

Rick Folstad, TSS, ex pro fighter: Martinez by decision. Martinez is naturally bigger than Cotto and I think he wanted this fight more than Cotto did.

Blake Hochberger, TSS, social media guru: I got Martinez by TKO10. I think it’s a close fight as Cotto is able to hurt Sergio in spurts, but Sergio’s movement/angles and use of distance will keep Cotto at the end of his punches and ultimately wear down the smaller man. Stoppage either by Freddie or doctor due to cuts.

Frank Lotierzo, TSS, best damn analyst in the universe: If Cotto were a legitimate middleweight, I think he has the style to bother Martinez – but he’s not. If Austin Trout can hold off and out-box Cotto, I have to believe that Martinez can do it. Sergio’s legs will have to hold up in order for him to move and pot-shot Cotto. I’m betting that his body has at least one more good fight left. Martinez’s legacy is riding on winning this fight. This is the signature bout of his career and I can’t pick against him fighting the smaller and slower Cotto. I like Martinez by decision or late round stoppage.

Aaron Lowinger, TSS, new guy on TSS block, rising star: This has all the looks of a perfect fight. If Cotto makes it into the eighth round with all of his faculties he could easily wear down the bigger man and test Sergio’s legs. But Cotto himself needs to be near perfect. I see Martinez stopping Cotto before the eighth. Just too much power and too many weapons.

Raymond Markarian, TSS,Round By Round wiz, doing Round by Round TONIGHT: I wish I could tell you who will win this fight after the first round. That’s when we will know if Miguel Cotto can get closer enough to get inside of Sergio Martinez, and work the body. But since we can’t fast forward, my money is on Martinez to win a decision.

Kelsey McCarson, TSS, tough Texan: Sergio Martinez is all kinds of wrong for Miguel Cotto. He’s bigger, faster and more powerful. He’s a southpaw. He’s a better athlete. He’s just an all around better fighter. The only way Cotto has a chance against Martinez is if the 39-year-old is too old and/or too injured to be effective. I’m guessing that won’t be the case, and Martinez will dominate Cotto and stop him before Round 9.

John Nguyen, TSS, analyst extraordinaire: I’m not sure I completely buy into this Cotto rebirth. It’s hard for me to get excited about Cotto’s splattering of Delvin Rodriguez since, really, Cotto did what he was supposed to: wipe out a seriously overmatched opponent. Who knows? Maybe it was just what the doctor ordered to boost Cotto’s confidence. I , however, think that many are reading a little too much into Cotto’s last fight, as Martinez is a completely different animal, even if he’s seen better days. I really don’t think Cotto will be able to dent Martinez’ chin, which has proven sturdy against the likes of Williams, Pavlik, and Chavez, all much bigger and stronger than Cotto. When Martinez has been dropped, it’s been due to bad balance, not bad whiskers. A healthy/semi-healthy Sergio is too big, strong, and fast for Cotto. Barring the very possible event of Martinez’ body unraveling, this looks like a methodical beatdown with Cotto on the wrong end of it. Martinez by mid to late round stoppage, possibly at the behest of Freddie Roach.

Aaron Tallent, TSS, wordsmith: Cotto definitely has more power than Martinez and if he is able to get inside, it could possibly be a short night. However, Martinez has shown of late that he is a master at using his size and reach to dictate the fight. Cotto will experience more of the same. Martinez by decision.

Chris Wheat, TSS, gritty vet: In a way this is a tossup, perhaps. If Sergio’s knee is 100% his speed, movement, and size should be enough to give him the win. If his knee is not strong and his movement suffers, Cotto’s body attack should give Cotto an edge and a way to win.

Michael Woods, TSS, bald, because he didn’t eat enough fruits and veggies growing up: Cotto just can’t bang up here, in the 160 hood, enough to hurt Sergio…unless Sergio blows out a knee in round three, or breaks a hand in round five. Then it could get dicy. I do truly believe that the presence of Freddie Roach is meaningful, that the semi-old dog Cotto can learn some new tricks, can be smarter in how he moves about the ring…so I see this as a closer fight than many folks do.

Lee Wylie, TSS, master of video analysis: For technical input, please refer to this short video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04eM_UwnLWI&feature=youtu.be

Ultimately, though, provided Martinez is fit and healthy, he takes Cotto out inside the distance.

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

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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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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 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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