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One of HBO’s Smiling Assassins, Sergey Kovalev, Talks Up March 14 Date With Pascal

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Man, is HBO cornering the market on smiling assassins, or what? You got Gennady Golovkin, who carries himself with the boyish enthusiasm and politeness of a Boy Scout–hey, they still have those?–and HBO also features Sergey Kovalev, always quick with a grin, and self deprecating take on his place in the boxing universe. As always, I was struck by Kovalev’s easy-going charm when I chatted with him today, Wednesday, at a Manhattan presser to trumpet his March 14 scrap against Jean Pascal, which will unfold in Montreal.

Before his last fight, against Bernard Hopkins, in which he shed any and all holdouts who weren’t sure if his power punching wasn’t a top-heavy asset, and clung to wondering if holes in his game would be exposed by the master of in-ring trickeration and anti-aging, Kovalev had me pondering. Why wouldn’t he go out on a limb and predict a win? Why was he hedging? Why wouldn’t he proclaim his imminent victory over B-Hop? Well, it became apparent after he schooled the professor, that he’s 1) intensely humble and 2) he’s wise, and knows that there are no guarantees when one steps in the ring, but that Buffer will collect a fat check if he says his catchphrase.

That humility, it was present again at the Parker Meridien, when he told me that it’s not for him to say if he is THE MAN at light heavy, or is Fighter of the Year, as he was chosen by we here at TSS. But, he did give a hint of that other side, the one which enables him to have stopped 23 of 26 opponents since turning pro in 2009. Pascal, who looked in solid shape, with popped biceps curving out from a short sleeve shirt, got a turn with the mic and stood up. He strode over to Kovalev, and told all present that he was not coming to lay down, and fully expected to have his hand raised at La Bell Centre. He put a hand on Kovalev, and I studied the Russian’s face to see how he handled it. I didn’t note any consternation. Later, I asked him about that Pascal move. Did his radar go up, I wondered? Indeed it did, he told me. (You can see his answer when we post the footage to BoxingChannel.TV soon.) He told me he was eyeing Pascal, reading his body language, looking for clues to his intent. It turns out the intent wasn’t odious or done to try and inject doubt into Kovalev’s head. I think Pascal is too much a vet for that….He knows that Kovalev isn’t the flappable sort. But it got me thinking again about Golovkin, and Kovalev, and that bizarre and wondrous ability to have that duality in you. Possessors of disarming grins and easy amiability…and the ability and desire to seperate you from your senses. Boxing, a helluva thing.

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Here is a pic of one of HBO’s smiling assassin’s and the writer, by David Spagnolo:

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Here is the release, with all the top quotes and stellar photos by David Spagnolo, which went out today:

Krusher and Pascal

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

New York, NY: Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs), the current WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion, and Jean Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs), the former WBC and Lineal Light Heavyweight Champion and Current holder of the WBC Diamond Belt, addressed the U.S. media in New York City in advance of their March 14 fight for the WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight Championships. Kovalev has been named The Fighter of the Year by the WBO, Sports Illustrated, BleacherRepor, New York Post, USA Today and many others and today received his WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Championship Ring from Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events.

Also in attendance were Vyacheslav “Czar” Glazkov (19-0-1, 12 KOs) and Steve “USS” Cunningham (28-6, 13 KOs) who were announced as the co-feature for the Kovalev-Pascal card. The two will fight for the #1 position in the IBF.

Below are the quotes from the press conference:

Glazkov, Kovalev, Pascal & Cunningham

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events

“Welcome to the press conference where everyone is invited! One of the joys of my life is to present an interesting and big event with two fighters where the outcome is doubt. On March 14 we will present two such fights. The Kovalev-Pascal fight is a throwback fight in the truest sense of the word. A reigning World Champion who is willing to fight a worthy challenger in the challenger’s hometown. And if that wasn’t enough, in the co-feature Czar Glazkov and Steve Cunningham will face off for the #1 position in the IBF and the winner will face Wladimir Klitschko or whomever is the IBF Heavyweight Champion at the end of the year.”

Jean Bedard

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Jean Bedard, President of Interbox

“It is a privilege for Interbox to work with Kathy and Main Events because we share the same vision – to bring the best fights to the fans. Saturday is usually hockey night in Canada but, on March 14, Kovalev and Pascal will replace the Canadiens. The Bell Centre is one of the busiest sporting venues in the world and we are so proud to bring this event there. Thank you also to HBO.”

Duva

“Main Events and HBO have worked together since the 1980s probably before Peter Nelson was even born, but he has brought so much to the sweet science in a short period of time. It is a pleasure to work with again to bring another great night of boxing to the fans.”

Peter Nelson, Vice President of Programming, HBO Sports

“I wrote that for Kathy (laughing). I want to thank the media for coming today. I want to thank Kathy Duva. She has done a great job with Sergey Kovalev’s career. We were privileged to be part of his win over Bernard Hopkins and this is just the next installment in an amazing career. This fight is a signature event, it is not another check-in-the-box. This is two elite fighters looking to establish their legacies. We are privileged to be associated with events that not only have great main events but great co-features. The co-feature has an amazing story as well. Start time is 9:45 and we look forward to a great event. Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal always look to fight the best and I would like to thank the press for rewarding them for doing so.”

Duva

“In the co-feature, all of you will watch while I cover my eyes. We wanted to bring the heavyweight division back to life. Who knew that last year we would be here with two of our own facing each other for the #1 position? Then Steve Cunningham defeated Amir Mansour and Czar Glazkov defeated Tomasz Adamek and those victories have brought us here to this moment. The fans are the ones who will win when this fight ends but I won’t be able to watch. Steve’s legendary trainer, Brother Naazim Richardson is one of the best in the business. He is a member of Steve’s family and they have been living together through all the joy and all the sorrows. It is much better to be working together with Naazim on the same side this time instead of against him like with the fight against Hopkins. Steve has faced some incredible challenges in the boxing ring but he has faced even bigger challenges outside the ring. When he faced Mansour he was told his daughter Kennedy, who was born with a congenital heart defect, was going to die. Last month she proved the doctors wrong when she received a successful heart transplant. Her father shares her same fighting spirit to defy the odds and he is looking to show that on March 14.”

Steve and Cruz Cunningham

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Steve “USS” Cunningham, USBA Heavyweight Champion

“Thanks Kathy for making me tear up. I would like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Main Events and HBO. I am finally getting on HBO! I gave up that I would ever get here so I am excited and happy to be on HBO finally. I know everyone talks about the situation with my daughter and the strength it took for us to survive it, but we have done nothing more than what anyone else would have done in the same situation. I want to thank everyone who gave to her fund and helped us get here. I am fighting my fourth undefeated heavyweight. I am here to show. Boxing is the show business. I have to show every time I get in that ring. I want to be the heavyweight world champion. Czar is an Olympian and he is undefeated and whatever plan Naaz comes up with I am going to execute it. You have seen the heart and the skill and I am going to bring that on March 14.”

Duva

“I didn’t know that the day that I met Egis Klimas that it would be one of the luckiest days of my life. He convinced me to look at Sergey Kovalev and I am so glad he did. Egis handles three world champions and now he is looking to get his first heavyweight world champion.”

Nelson, Glazkov and Klimas

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Egis Klimas, Manager of Sergey Kovalev and Czar Glazkov

“For me March 14 is going to be a double pleasure night. Me and Czar started working together when I convinced a Russian promoter to bring him to the United States. He just moved from the Ukraine to the United States. For this fight he relocated to Oxnard, CA and he is working with a new trainer, Victor Petrochenko. He has already started camp. It is going to be a good night and hopefully he can win and be IBF champion in the heavyweight division.”

Duva

“While Czar Glazkov was here in the United States becoming the NABF heavyweight champion, his friends and family were suffering through the conflict in the Ukraine. He wants a shot at his fellow countryman Wladimir Klitschko and he is willing to take on any challenge to get there. When he was originally scheduled to fight Tomasz Adamek and Adamek had fallen out, he was so disappointed that we had to replace him with Garret Wilson. However, he only asked me one question – is he right handed or left handed? That is what makes him the type of competitor he is.”

Czar and Steve

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

“Czar” Glazkov, NABF Heavyweight Champion

“I am very sorry to speak Russian but I am still learning English. I want to thank Kathy Duva and Main Events, HBO and Peter Nelson for giving me this opportunity to fight on the biggest boxing network. Steve Cunningham is a good fighter and this is his last chance to show something in boxing but my goal is to show that I am better. Now I am training with my new trainer, Victor Petrochenko. He is showing me something new. We are getting good workout and I will show March 14. It is going to be a good show.”

Greg Leon, CEO of Jean Pascal Promotions

“I want to thank HBO, Main Events, and Interbox. Interbox is a first class organization across the board. This fight is about the best versus the best. They are the two best light heavyweights willing to fight each other. Jean Pascal has never seen anyone as strong as Sergey Kovalev and Sergey Kovalev has never seen anyone as athletic as Jean Pascal. Pascal was shocked the odds have him four to one but we welcome the challenge. We are looking forward to a great night of boxing.”

Marc Ramsay, Trainer of Jean Pascal

“Thank you everyone. I would like to thank HBO, Main Events and Interbox for giving us this opportunity. I am proud to be part of this fight. So many fighters like to escape the big challenge. Sergey Kovalev is not afraid to travel and Jean Pascal is not afraid of this challenge. The real training camp starts next Monday. There is always a way to beat every fighter and Jean Pascal has all the tools to achieve it.”

Pascal with Kovalev and Duva

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Jean Pascal, Former WBC, IBO and The Ring Light Heavyweight Champion

“I want to thank God for giving us this opportunity as well as Interbox and Main Events. This fight was an easy fight to make. Titles and money come and go but history doesn’t. We want to make history. HBO wants to make the best fight possible and that is why they made this fight. I don’t have Showtime no more. They show boring fights. Sergey Kovalev is a great champion; a solid champion. He can punch, he has good speed, he is good with his distance, he does everything well, he has good technique and I love to be the underdog. I loved watching when Balboa fought the crushing Russian in Rocky IV and now this is my real life and I am going to be the black Balboa.”

Duva

“I want to recognize the best training staff in the business John David Jackson and Derik Santos, Sergey’s training team. They could not be here but they prepared him for his stellar appearance against Bernard Hopkins and they will have him ready for Pascal.”

Klimas

“It is a pleasure to represent a fighter who is USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and New York Post Fighter of the Year (to name a few). I believe truly he has proved that. Everyone thought that he could only knock people out but he outboxed Bernard Hopkins. Jean Pascal is a good fighter. He is the best challenger in the division for Sergey Kovalev. The two good men are going to meet. In the end talk is cheap let’s bring these guys in the ring and let that speak for itself. Nobody believed me when I brought Sergey Kovalev through 18 fights with my own money without a promoter. Thank you Kathy for bringing us to this level.”

Duva

“So many recognize why Sergey Kovalev should be the Fighter of the Year is not because he defeats everyone he faces but the way he does it. He outboxed a legendary fighter. It takes more than talent to make a champion, add drive, ambition and a work ethic that is second to none. He is charming and one of the nicest people in the world. He is the most electrifying fighter I have ever worked with (and I have worked with some electrifying fighters!) and he is just beginning. Before I ask him to speak I have a little surprise for him. Main Events has a tradition of creating rings when our fighters win a world championship. Joel McFadden is the artist who created your WBO ring. The good news is they created a wonderful new ring, that bad news is because you won two belts at once there is only one ring. Everything was designed by hand.”

Klimas and Kovalev with World Championship Ring

Photo Credits: David Spagnolo/Main Events

Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion

“Hello everybody. Thanks for this great ring, it is very complimentary from jewel masters. I always wear my WBO ring. I sleep with it and now I will have to sleep with both together. Next, I know I was named Fighter of the Year but I didn’t know how many media chose me. I am happy and this push me more to show what I am a real Fighter of the Year. This year will be more big fights. I am starting with a very big fight with Jean Pascal. Thank you for taking this fight. For me it doesn’t matter where I fight. If I am true champion, I am fighting anyone anywhere. I want to thank HBO and Peter Nelson personally for this opportunity to give me big chance in my life. Where I am it is because of my team: Kathy Duva and Main Events, Egis Klimas and HBO. That is my team I love you and bless you. Everybody say before the fight was made that I will win. I never say never; this is boxing. This isn’t sprinting or bicycling. I never say never. You can go to Big Bear and repeat my preparations but no one can repeat my style. It is my thinking in me that gave me all victories and will give more.”

Duva

“I want to thank Le Parker Meridien, HBO and Hortitsia vodka, our sponsor. We look forward to a great night of boxing on March 14. Thank you.”

About Kovalev vs. Pascal

Kovalev vs. Pascal is a 12-round fight for the WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Championship Titles. The fight will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing® on March 14, 2015 from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Tickets are on sale now at the Bell Centre ticket office, at www.evenko.ca, by telephone at 1-855-310-2525 or through Club de Boxe Champion (514-376-0980). This event is a co-promotion of Main Events and InterBox, presented by Vidéotron in association with Mise-O-Jeu.

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

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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

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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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