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The Greatness of Floyd Mayweather

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“Floyd Mayweather’s Ridiculous T-Shirt”; “Could Manny Pacquiao’s Lawsuit Affect MMA?”; “What’s the Point In Being the Greatest Fighter in the World if Everyone Think He’s D—–d?”

The above are all real headlines generating a starling-thick flurry of hits on the internet this morning in the wake of the most media-friendly fight in the history of the sport. No stone left unturned, no inanity unexplored. Just as the information age has made available to us, the boxing fan, thousands of hours of footage of fighters we may not otherwise have heard of and virtual stacks of newspaper reports guiding us through the narrow maze of boxing’s infancy, so we have to suffer with the rest of the world concerning the grimmest platitudes that can be generated in the English language. For me, it was time, at last, to turn my face from the latest news on Pacquiao’s shoulder or Mayweather’s gambling and look, instead, to history.

You can’t beat the here and now of a fight night, but when it is not only the case that the falcon cannot hear the falconer but that the circus elephants have escaped from the circus and trampled the falconer and his entire menagerie to death, history is always waiting for you, arms open, offering a bloody embrace. When I’m considering his place in history my discomfort concerning Mayweather’s repeated arrests for domestic violence matter not; they are banished, just as they are the moment his right foot alights upon the canvas. Here, the disaster that is his public persona is vanished and his genius comes to the fore.

And he is a genius.

In the early part of 2013 I attempted, for another website, to construct a pound-for-pound list that examined, in order of greatness, the 100 most pre-eminent pugilists in history. It was a difficult, even an absurd task, calling for a comparative analysis of everyone from the legendary figures of the 1880s to the vivid superstars of the modern era, but it ended a moderate success that met with an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the biggest readership that website had gathered. I was pleased with the result for all that I acknowledge that the list wasn’t perfect.

Although we were at that time published at rival websites, The Sweet Science’s Springs Toledo was kind enough to lend me his eye, and chief among his concerns was my insistence that I rank active fighters alongside those who had retired. I still believe I made the right choice but his concerns were well founded. The Fight of the Century between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather was contested not just between the two best pound-for-pound fighters in the world – something so rare that the meeting between Roy Jones and James Toney from 1994 may be the only example of such a clash since Joe Louis blasted out Billy Conn in 1941 – but a meeting between the two highest ranking active fighters (barring the by now ramshackle Roy Jones) that appeared on my Top 100 Pound for Pound list. What is more, the meeting had a special significance for each man’s legacy. As I wrote at the time:

“Fans whinge endlessly about Floyd Mayweather “cherry picking” his opponents whilst the other camp gnashes their teeth about Manny Pacquiao “weight-draining” his opponents in a series of catchweight bouts, but these men have both fought some of the best fighters of their era. But they haven’t fought each other…[a]s it stands, they are ranked almost together, just as they were through much of the past decade, with Mayweather slightly higher, just as he was for much of that time. Both were ranked on Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list between 2003 and 2013, with Mayweather ranked higher for most of six years and Pacquiao ranking higher for most of four.”

The failure of boxing to deliver Mayweather-Pacquiao remained the single greatest failure in the history of fights. They were the two best fighters in the world, they shared a division and yet the fight wasn’t made until not one but both were past their best and the fight’s meaning was lost to the bandwidth of a hundred angst-filled forums.

From an historical perspective, however, the fight did have meaning. It provided a method for separating the twin heads of the pound-for-pound monster which has dominated this era. Mayweather and Pacquiao ranked in the low forties on my original list, at #47 and #48 respectively. This sounds low and at the time it felt low, but a quick look at the men in the surrounding spots should quell any doubts:

45 – Jimmy Bivins
46 – Ike Williams
47 – FLOYD MAYWEATHER
48 – Manny Pacquiao
49 – Tommy Ryan
50 – Jack Dillon

Directly behind Pacquiao is Tommy Ryan, one of the most dominant champions of the 1800s, a fighter who exhibited dominance at both welterweight and middleweight in a time long before either junior divisions or a sense of humanity had crept into the sport. Like Mayweather and Pacquiao, he was hamstrung in his ranking by his failure to meet the other colossus of his era, Barbados Joe Walcott, and like Mayweather, he was considered the absolute master of the science of his era. Below Ryan, Dillon, the original Giantkiller, a man feared from welterweight to heavyweight by some of the best pugilists of the early 1900s. Mayweather and Pacquiao perched, pre-retirement, above some truly great fighters.

Directly above them: Ike Williams and Jimmy Bivins. Williams and Bivins illustrate the problems in ranking Mayweather among the true Dons of the sport beautifully. Viewing my 100 in isolation, Mayweather’s only wins against fellow centurions came against Oscar De La Hoya and Juan Manuel Marquez. Mayweather’s impressive problem-solving performance against Oscar enhanced his standing by my eye, as did his total domination of Marquez in what may have been a literal punch-perfect performance. It must be noted, however that neither man was at his respective best for his contest with Mayweather, and more than that, that although each makes the 100, they are firmly ensconced in the bottom-half. Meanwhile Ike Williams holds a victory over a top 50 lock in Kid Gavilan, Jimmy Bivins holds victories over top 30 monster Charley Burley, the celestial Archie Moore, the Godlike Ezzard Charles. While these men had the appearance of being more inconsistent, their losses were more indicative of the trials associated with fighting eight times a year against high quality opposition than they were of any lack in quality.

Nevertheless, how to balance the losses of fighters with deluxe resumes against Mayweather’s unbeaten status gained versus inferior opposition becomes the trick.

Mayweather fans will bristle at that terminology, “inferior opposition”, but that is no reason to shy from the facts. Direct comparisons between the best work done by someone like Bivins will always leave Mayweather languishing just as any comparison of losses makes Mayweather seem untouchable. Neither comparison unlocks the truth about either man, but quality of opposition vanquished is the single most important aspect when it comes to my criteria. But just as the list creates its own gravity – how to rank Mayweather ahead of Thomas Hearns, when Hearns has defeated the #10, Roberto Duran? – so it is littered with special cases that escape that gravity, big bright shining stars that slingshot their way around the contorting black hole of the upper reaches and burst free. Mayweather became such an exception when he vanquished Pacquiao.

Of course, a win can only catapult a fighter so far. My list was valid as of March 1, 2013 and between that date and his match with Pacquiao, Mayweather went 4-0, defeating Roberto Guerrero, Saul Alvarez and Marcos Maidana. This haul saw him creep past Ike Williams and probably even Bivins as his longevity began to elongate and the wins over ranked foes racked up.

When the fight with Pacquiao was made, I thought it prudent to identify the absolute limitation for a ranking achievable by each man in the case that they won; for Mayweather I found that ranking him any higher than 19 would be impossible:

15 – Archie Moore
16 – Ray Leonard
17 – George Dixon
18 – Terry McGovern
19 – Packey McFarland
20 – Pernell Whitaker
21 – Tony Canzoneri
22 – Jimmy McLarnin
23 – Sandy Saddler
24 – Stanley Ketchel
25 – Charley Burley

The barrier to his scaling any higher was, to my eye, Terry McGovern. McGovern defeated, within the space of just a year, the bantam, feather and lightweight champion of the world, all by knockout, and each and every one of them was a world-class fighter. The bantamweight champion was an old-town tough Englishman named Pedlar Palmer, unbeaten; McGovern smashed him to pieces in just a round. The featherweight champion was the immortal George Dixon, ranked here at #17. He was slipping, yes, but he had never been stopped – McGovern laid him low in eight. Frank Erne was the much bigger lightweight champion and perhaps the best lightweight to have boxed before the heyday of Joe Gans, a fighter he had defeated in twelve rounds just weeks before his contest with McGovern: McGovern battered him as though he were a rank amateur. Even if he had knocked out Pacquiao in one, I could see no way past McGovern for Mayweather.

But wait – a moment ago we were talking about Mayweather creeping past some of the wonderful boxers ensconced in the forties, now, somehow, he is enmeshed with the low twenties, all because he bested a past-prime former-flyweight with a bad shoulder who had already be knocked out by his closest rival, Juan Manuel Marquez. How is this justified?

It is justified by Mayweather’s resolution of question that would dog him always without his having some sort of showdown with Pacquiao. Yes, the great Filipino was past prime, but having defeated his generational rival, however unsatisfactorily, Mayweather forever separated himself from that rival, something remaining undefeated without having taken this ultimate risk – again, from the generational perspective, which does not interest itself in the relative status of each man – would never have done. Mayweather is now, beyond all hope of contradiction, the greatest fighter of his generation in addition to his being a fighter that has never been beaten. Men who can legitimately lay an unfettered claim to be the best pound-for-pound of their time are extremely rare. Of the men who can legitimately make such a claim, there is only one of them who can also lay claim to having remained undefeated and that man is Floyd Mayweather Jnr.

Of course, arguments abound that Mayweather is the pound-for-pound king of one of the weakest eras in boxing. I dispute this, but must concede that the current pound-for-pound list isn’t enormously impressive. But it is also true that Mayweather has sat astride it for years and the list of names that has peered across the vast chasm that separates him from the mortals at work in the gym is enormously impressive. Aside from the great Pacquiao himself, Mayweather has ranked clearly above the great Bernard Hopkins, Marco Antonio Barrera, Andre Ward, three-weight world champion and heir apparent Roman Gonzalez and the undefeated Joe Calzaghe. Pacquiao aside, who wrestled the pound-for pound crown from his rival upon and immediately after his 2008 “retirement”, Mayweather has stood a distance removed from them all.

As a counterbalance, it should be stated that his competition although excellent is not as dizzying as that of previous pound-for-pound kings and that his weight-jumping exploits, although impressive, haven’t seen him at a serious size disadvantage since his 2007 decision over Oscar De La Hoya. It is true that Canelo Alvarez looked the bigger man at light-middle, but it is also true that since his confrontation with Oscar De La Hoya and subsequent retirement, Mayweather has filled out to a legitimate welterweight and was never going to be truly out-monstered just 7lbs north of that weight division, even against the roomy Mexican.

So talk of the teens is premature. Total domination of a healthy, deadly Pacquiao might have bought him a birth in or around those slots, but I have not seen enough to rank him above the twin sons of Tony Canzoneri and Jimmy McLarnin. McLarnin arguably has the deepest resume in the sport between the death of Harry Greb and retirement of Ezzard Charles and Canzoneri was the smaller man who almost equalled that resume and went an astounding 1-1 with the larger McLarnin. Behind these two monsters, at #23, is Sandy Saddler. Saddler is an extremely difficult comparison. On the one hand he dominated a series with Willie Pep – to be clear, I consider this even more impressive than dominating a series with Floyd Mayweather – but on the other he was out-pointed by inferior pugilists. The difficult in the comparison tells me we are approaching the neighbourhood in which Mayweather will reside, but I can’t quite see him ahead of a looming nemesis to so great a fighter as Pep.

Can he be ranked ahead of #24, Stanley Ketchel?

Ketchel’s case is difficult. He was a force-of-nature, a furnace-bound warrior whose absurd brutality echoes down the century. He was a middleweight so terrible that he was at one time expected to rule as the heavyweight champion of the world, until a combination of the equally lunatic Billy Papke and the defeat of heavyweight king Tommy Burns by the invincible Jack Johnson combined to make that impossible. Ketchel’s loss to Papke is troubling. A borderline great as a middleweight, Papke beat Ketchel despite his having a similar style, something that surprises. Although Ketchel triumphed in their series and built himself an excellent and underrated middleweight resume before that gutsy, doomed tilt at Jack Johnson, he feels like a near miss who should have been wrestling with doppelganger Terry McGovern for a spot in the teens but who was prevented from doing so by a bullet in the back and an enthusiasm for opium. I can see an argument for Mayweather being ranked above Ketchel.

And it is my argument. Barely, barely, I think that Mayweather’s slick dance up the divisions, pound-for-pound certitude and undefeated status trumps Ketchel’s aborted whirlwind assault upon the middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. Had he bested Sam Langford, avoided defeat against Billy Papke or lived to come again, it would be Ketchel, but none of those things happened, and so it’s Mayweather:

19 – Packey McFarland
20 – Pernell Whitaker
21 – Tony Canzoneri
22 – Jimmy McLarnin
23 – Sandy Saddler

24 – FLOYD MAYWEATHER

25 – Stanley Ketchel
26 – Charley Burley
27 – Holman Williams
28 – Billy Conn
29 – Gene Tunney

Below him now: Gene Tunney, a lock for the top five at light-heavyweight, former heavyweight champion of the world; Billy Conn, as brilliant an operator to ever have straddled the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions; and the twin-towers of Charley Burley and Holman Wiliams, the true giants of the black murderer’s row of the 1940s, fighters so good that they terrified the management of fighters better than any that Mayweather has ever beaten.

Mayweather is ranked now in company that makes it reasonable to label his resume limited – it is less good than anyone who resides in his range, and even with the addition of the shopworn Pacquiao, probably compares unfavourably to some fighters ranked in the thirties. It is the wave of Mayweather’s status that carries him so far as the shore of the top twenty, a barrier he is unlikely to traverse without the great risk of pronounced longevity or some final and absurd assault on the middleweight division. This latter option is the preferred, I suspect, specifically because of the problematic presence of Miguel Cotto upon the middleweight throne. Of course, we all know that Golovkin is the best middleweight in the world but it is a fact that by defeating Cotto Mayweather could scoop the lineal middleweight crown to go with his light-middleweight and welterweight honours becoming a triple-crown lineal king in three weights despite the fact that none of them represent his best poundage. This would make him an Emperor of ring history, almost regardless of the circumstances.

Looking at things the other way, should Mayweather suffer the loss of his treasured 0, a tumble seems likely. My guess is that he is unlikely to risk his most treasured bauble at such a late stage in his career and the fulfilment of his Showtime contract and a prompt retirement will follow – although the absurd phantom of money troubles sometime in Mayweather’s future may make a comeback necessary.

Should the fiscal future remain rosy and the middleweight division remain untroubled, #24 is where I suspect Mayweather may remain – at least for me. And as a final point, that’s an important one. I feel satisfied at the spots these men inhabit, but you, of course, may feel differently and for many placements there are likely very strong counter-arguments in your support. Those wishing to investigate further for specifics to disagree on may do so by clicking here.

Arguments concerning the final placing of Manny Pacquiao await the great man’s retirement.

@McGrainM

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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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