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AMIR KHAN PUTS KELL BROOK ON BLAST

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Everyone in boxing seems to have an opinion about Amir Khan. By now, you have surely heard about Khan’s quest to dethrone the best in the sport and his rise to stardom, and also the takedowns, from those who deride his game and nitpick his choice of moves.

The Bolton native says nothing was handed to him. And he listens to boxing fans more than one would expect.

Kell Brook is itching to fight Khan. The Bolton native didn’t hold any punches when discussing a potential fight against the undefeated Brook. “There are levels to boxing,” he told me. “I think Kell Brook needs to understand that he is at a level below me.“

I spoke with Khan on Saturday afternoon to discuss the possibilities of fighting Brook, the winner of Mayweather/Pacquiao, and his potential next opponent, Chris Algieri. On Thursday, Khan made an announcement on his wife’s YouTube account stating he is fighting Algieri on May 30th. Two days later, Khan retracted his statement. Khan says, “The Algieri fight is not 100% confirmed.”

Khan spoke to me about the reactionary potential opponents; fight fans, and media surrounding his career. Khan also talked at length about boxing politics, how undeserving opponents, especially Brook, get thrown into the mix when they have not earned the opportunity.

“All I want is Kell to prove himself fighting A-list fighters, like I have done. Right now, he is just riding on my back. He is riding my name. I know it’s business but please stop fooling people and making me look small. Eddie Hearn and Kell Brook make me look like a liar.”

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In an in-depth interview about his history in the sport, and what the future holds, Khan attempts to explain better his career as a whole.

Ray Markarian: A few days ago, you made an announcement on YouTube saying that you are fighting Chris Algieri on May 30th. But you just told me the Algieri fight is not confirmed. What is going on with the Algieri fight?

Amir Khan: I made the video on YouTube because we thought the fight with Chris Algieri was a done deal. But I have been speaking with my team and there are some more options on the table. We are waiting things out. I hope to get my fight finalized this week.

RM:So, the fight with Algieri hasn’t been confirmed?

AK: No. Nothing is 100% confirmed yet. We could make an announcement in another couple of days. We don’t know if it’s Algieri just yet. My opponent on May 30th has not been confirmed. Nothing has been agreed upon. There are a lot of names out there. We just have to make the right decision.

RM:What about Adrien Broner? You think Broner wants the fight? He was calling you out.

AK: No. I don’t think he wants it. I think he hyped it up on social media. I told him that I am a 147-pound fighter. He was very respectful and said he wants to meet at 144 or 145. Why would I go to meet him at 144 or 145? If he wants to fight me then he should come meet me at my weight. I am getting messages that he really doesn’t want the fight. He is talking big on the social media. But when it comes down to taking the fight on May 30th, or even May 23rd, we hear nothing. He doesn’t want anything.

RM: What about Juan Manuel Marquez?

AK: Nothing. We haven’t heard much from them.

RM: What about the fight with Miguel Cotto? I know there were rumors about you fighting Cotto.

AK: Here’s one thing I want to the public to understand. I am the one that is challenging everyone. It’s me calling out these big names. The fight with Miguel Cotto would be great for me. But I heard he is working a deal to fight Bundrage. I think he has a date set in June. I want to fight at the end of May. And I can’t do June because of Ramadan.

RM: Right.

AK: Obviously I take Ramadan very seriously. I don’t want to rush into it. That’s why I want to fight at the end of May. I want to start preparing for Ramadan in June. Even though it doesn’t start until like the 17th, it’s important, and I want to start for preparing for it. So basically I am the one that wants to fight all the big names but people are trying to bring me down saying that I want to fight an easy option in Algieri. But like I said, the main reason we are considering Algieri is that the fight is going to be on primetime TV in the US. And it makes a lot of money for me. So, why not take the fight?

RM: OK. But, why wouldn’t you make a lot of money fighting Kell Brook?

AK: Kell Brook?

RM: Yeah. I think that’s the main question.

AK:Well, it’s all timing. I want to fight in America. And I want to fight before June. Brook is looking at mid June or the end of June. Here’s the thing with Kell Brook… I have always said it from day one; I have had all the toughest fights. I have gone through the gauntlet. I earned my stripes and I did it the hard way, fighting the likes of Maidana, Judah, Garcia, Peterson, Malignaggi, and Alexander. I am fighting all the top guys. I have proven myself. Brook can’t go into a fight with Amir Khan after beating Jo Jo Dan. All due respect to Dan. I respect every fighter, but Dan is a nobody. You think I am going to say, “Oh yeah, fight me next.” It doesn’t make sense for him (Brook) to fight me after the Jo Jo Dan fight. Why doesn’t he prove himself? I mean, look, he is fighting all of these C-Class opponents. Now he really thinks he has a chance to fight me? Why should I give him the opportunity to fight me when he has not taken a hard fight?

RM: Brook hasn’t paid his dues?

AK: Exactly. Don’t get me wrong, because there is going to be a lot of money on the table regardless. There will be a lot of money on the table fighting Kell Brook. But there will be a lot of money fighting Algieri as well. The reason I respect Algieri is because has faced some tough guys, like Provodnikov and Manny Pacquiao. I really believe the fight with Algieri makes more sense, in a way. Algieri has been in with the top guys. What if he beat Pacquiao? I mean, he lost the fight, but if he won then he probably wouldn’t even fight me. It’s not my job to defend Chris Algieri. But my opponent on May 30th hasn’t been confirmed. I am just saying that if it is Algieri, then here are the reasons why we would fight him.

RM:Algieri went 12 rounds with Pacquiao. That’s true. You have to respect him for that.

AK: Exactly. His last three fights were against some top guys, Provodnikov, Pacquiao, and Emmanuel Taylor. You can’t really disrespect him. I will tell you one thing, He is better than Jo Jo Dan. And I am hearing another thing about Eddie Hearn. I heard Hearn is looking at Brandon Rios or a guy named Antonin Decarie for Kell Brook’s next opponent. But Rios is naturally a 140-pound fighter and Decarie is another unknown name. It seems to me that Kell Brook’s team is picking the easy option. I think they are scared to lose to an A-Class opponent and lose the opportunity to fight Amir Khan. The only reason he wants to fight me is for the big payday. Otherwise, he would probably face some decent opponents. He is scared of losing the title. That’s all it is.

RM:Does the public criticism get under your skin?

AK: No Ray, it doesn’t bother me. I want to speak to you to get the message out to the general public. Sometimes the general public doesn’t really understand the boxing business. I do not disrespect any fighter. We work in a very tough profession. I think that people do not see how hard our job really is.

RM: The business outweighs the sport.

AK: It is a business. Eddie and Kell are fooling the fans and the media. Look at my last 10 opponents and look at Kell’s. Regardless if I won or lost. They say I am afraid. They put my name down of being afraid. All I want is Kell to prove himself fighting A-list fighters, like I have done. Right now, he is just riding on my back. He is riding my name. I know it’s business but please stop fooling people and making me look small. Eddie Hearn and Kell Brook make me look like a liar. If Kell really wants to fight me then he should fight a few A-list opponents and build his name. Instead of looking at the small picture look at the bigger picture. We can make the Amir Khan/Kell Brook fight like Mayweather/Pacquiao, if we do it smartly. But that’s only if Kell fights the likes of Maidana, Thurman, or Marquez. He has to prove himself against top guys, you know?

RM:You said that you would fight Kell Brook in a “winner take all of the purse” type of fight. You would really do that?

AK: Yes of course. That’s how confident I am. And I want to prove to him that at the end of the day, boxing is not about the money to me. I am blessed to have made a lot of money in this sport. I have been very lucky to surround myself with great people. I have been lucky in life. But boxing is not all about the money to me. But I know for him, (Kell Brook) it is all about the money.

RM:OK.

AK: And when I said, “winner takes all” I didn’t say it was going to be my next fight. It could be the end of the year or early next year. So, when and if I ever fight Brook that’s what I want to do. That’s how confident I am that I will beat him.

RM:I know you continue to say that Brook hasn’t really fought anyone but he beat Shawn Porter. Porter was an undefeated champion, you know?

AK: Yeah. He beat Shawn Porter. But it was a 50/50 fight. That was the only top guy he fought and it could have gone either way. That was a very close fight. A lot of people thought Shawn won. A lot of people thought Brook won. So, if that is the only A-Class opponent he fought and it wasn’t a clear victory, then I think he still needs more experience.

RM: So, you’re saying that Brook fought one “name” fighter, and won a close fight, but hasn’t truly proved himself?

AK: Exactly. Obviously, Kell has beaten one big fighter. But you can’t just beat one decent name and say you want to fight the world. You know what I mean?

RM: I hear you.

AK: You really think Brook has a chance with Manny Pacquiao or Mayweather? They don’t even know who Kell Brook is. You know what I mean?

RM: So, you paid your dues and Brook hasn’t paid his dues? That’s basically what you’re saying?

AK: He hasn’t earned it. That’s what the general public needs to understand. Kell Brook hasn’t done it the hard way. He has done it the easy way. But he is trying to win over the fans by putting me down. He puts me down and says he wants to fight me but we all know, realistically, he wants to fight me because he knows he will make more money. He just doesn’t want to risk losing to an A-Class opponent. If Kell Brook fought me it will be a life changing experience for him.

RM:You mean financially?

AK: Yeah. A fight between Amir Khan and Kell Brook will change his life. So, should I give him that opportunity? I don’t know.

RM: The cards are in your hands, huh?

AK: The cards are in my hands. Exactly. But you cannot disrespect who I fight and what I have done in my career. I have done more than what Kell Brook has done. Everyone knows I call out the big names but I don’t do it disrespectfully. I pay my respects to proven warriors. Kell Brook hasn’t done half of what I have done.

RM:You are looking out for yourself.

AK: Exactly.

RM: So, why is Amir Khan doing what is best for him and not worried about what Kell Brook wants?

AK: Well, here’s the reason. Let’s be real. I have faced everyone that they have asked me to fight, from my mandatory to the top guys; I didn’t have to take these fights against the big names. But I did. That’s the type of fighter that I am. But you can’t disrespect me because I might fight somebody else. Algieri is a tough fighter. No fight is easy. Like I said, Algieri is better fighter than Jo Jo Dan. If it’s ok for Kell Brook to fight Jo Jo Dan, and his next fight might be against some guy named Decarie, why can’t I fight Algieri? Why are they disrespecting me?

RM: If Chris Algieri fights Kell Brook, who wins?

AK: It’s a toss up. That’s a close fight. At the end of the day, Algieri is a good fighter. He went the distance with Pacquiao and showed a lot of heart in that fight.

RM: OK. So, in your opinion, what will satisfy the public?

AK: Man, I am just hearing so many things. Eddie Hearn said that I turned down a fight with Tim Bradley, the title eliminator. I would never turn down that fight. That’s crazy. That fight has never been offered to me.

RM: Wow.

AK: And if the Bradley fight was offered to me, I would take that fight in a heartbeat. Everyone knows I have offered to fight Bradley a long time ago. Bradley said he doesn’t want to fight. So, why would Eddie Hearn go out there and say I refused the fight against Bradley? Hearn doesn’t know anything. That (Bradley) fight hasn’t been brought to my attention.

RM: We are talking about Amir Khan fighting Hall of Fame fighters. You are one fight away from fighting Hall of Fame fighters.

AK: Well, my name is getting mentioned to fighting the winner of Mayweather/Pacquiao. But I have Kell Brook calling me out. There are levels to boxing. I think Kell Brook needs to understand that he is at a level below me.

You can follow Ray on Twitter @raymarkarian or email him at raymond.markarian@yahoo.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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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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