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Slight Return: Andre Ward Crushes Paul Smith In the Ninth



It’s Christmas of 2011 and as he sits down to pray before the Christmas turkey, Andre Ward is First in Line to The Throne. Manny Pacquiao has been dispatched by nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez and it is now Ward who is able to gaze at Floyd Mayweather’s star unfettered. No other pugilist stands between him and the undisputed #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He has a style that is reminiscent of Mayweather’s too, the sportsman’s parody of hit-and-don’t-be-hit; he was fast of hand, foot and mind, and he is armed with the nickname “Son of God”, the type of moniker that radiates the same arrogance as “Money” Mayweather.

Eight days earlier, Son of God had thrashed Carl Froch in Atlantic City to become the lineal champion at 168lbs. Froch, who has only recently been stripped from pound-for-pound lists himself for inactivity, was as world-class an opponent as could be found for Ward in his division and he beat the Englishman out of sight. I gave only one of the twelve rounds to Froch, who was as brave and game as always but who was stripped of his defence and robbed of his offence by a fighter who was a class removed from him.

It wasn’t that he just out-jabbed and out-boxed Froch – this, everyone had expected – he out-muscled him. He bullied him. He out-fought him up close where Froch’s superior strength and size were meant to buy him points. Instead, he was roughed up badly by the stronger, dirtier American who mixed his otherworldly left-hook, right uppercut, left hook type combinations with a healthy dose of forearm and head when challenged in a like manner. The fight was not close. The fight, a meeting between two of the ten best super-middleweights of all time, was embarrassingly one-sided. It may be the best performance of the decade.

He was twenty-seven years old and entering his physical prime; he was heir apparent; my opinion was that we were looking at an all-time great talent who would mop up the leftovers at 168lbs, probe for superfights at 160lbs before moving up to dominate at 175lbs. I thought we were seeing the man who would move Floyd Mayweather over.

Four years later:

Andre Ward has just boxed his first contest in little over nineteen months and has been almost universally stripped of any pound-for-pound recognition at all, because, as the man said, how can you be the best at something if you don’t do it? A short rest on the laurels seemed reasonable; after all, there wasn’t a lot left at the weight for him to do – but that short rest turned into a difficult dispute over promotional rights (now resolved). Since, opposition has emerged which is so good that not only would an unbeaten Ward have risen to the pound-for-pound #1 slot, still one of the most affluent position in all of sports, questions have arisen as to whether or not Ward could emerge triumphant. One down there is Gennady Golovkin, a pure stalker of lethal intent, as terrifying a spectre as can be seen in the ring currently. One up, there is Sergey Kovalev, perhaps not quite as special as Golovkin, but in real terms the harder assignment due to his size. Ward, who remains the legitimate king of the super-middles, even if he tarnishes the crown he wears with inactivity, has spent time flirting with light-heavyweight just recently.

His last fight at 168lbs was fought almost three years ago – a liftetime in boxing terms. It was against the reigning 175lbs champion Chad Dawson, who volunteered to dip down to super-middle where Ward happily obliged and then obliterated him. Next up was Edwin Rodriguez, in an over-the-weight super-middle contest, Ward a happy winner on points; finally, tonight, Ward weighed in as a light-heavyweight, coming in at just under the agreed 172lbs. His opponent, Paul Smith, out of Liverpool, England, didn’t make the 172lb limit; he didn’t even manage the 175lb limit; Paul Smith, now 35-6, weighed in at 176lbs. Worse still, when an additional weight limit of 181lbs was introduced for 11 am on the day of the fight, Smith decided not to bother with that one, either, weighing in at 184lbs. Mutters began to circulate that Smith, who was rumoured to have weighed around 180lbs just two days before, had turned up in the States out of shape, in attendance just to pick up his paycheck. For a limited but brave fighter like Smith, looking at Ward and trying to figure out a way to win must be the same as you or I trying to launch ourselves up Mount Everest without oxygen. Of course Smith took the fight, but once he and his team settled down to uncovering a strategy that might defeat Ward, it is possible none could be found. Whatever the truth of the mater it was clear: something had gone wrong in Smith’s camp.

Still, as a come-back opponent, Smith was probably just the right side of acceptable for any super-middleweight other than Ward. Although he must now be regarded as a professional loser at the absolute elite level, Smith, in his two fights with Arthur Abraham, looked like a real test for a world-class fighter. Their first fight, especially, was close and exciting for all that cries of robbery at the decision in favour of Abraham were a little hysterical. The Englishman fought a very good fight and was probably deserving of the rematch he was granted – a fight he clearly lost. Fellow Brit George Groves dusted him in just two back in 2011, a sharp right hand over the ear discombobulating him and another almost identical one ending proceedings. James Degale did the same job with the left in the ninth round a year before. The point is that there are many British super-middleweights that Ward could have called upon to welcome him back that are considerably better than Smith. The joke, at least on the British side of the Atlantic, is that Andre Ward has decided to take on the second best super-middleweight in Paul Smith’s family. On these shores, brother Callum is held to be the best of the four boxing Smith brothers.

So it can come as no surprise that what we saw tonight in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California was Paul Smith defeated without resistance in a one-sided fight that qualifies, basically, as a workout for Ward; a chance for him to get the meat back on his gristle, so to speak.

He certainly found his jab quickly enough, crackling it out throug the first round as Smith moved around the ring getting hit, Ward’s golden gloves ablur. The Oakland man remained standing between the first and second rounds and padded back out to jab Smith to the ropes in the opening moments of the second; Smith didn’t seem to panic outwardly, but he also appeared hypnotised by the jabs snaking into and between his high guard. Bereft of a meaningful plan, he likely had won no ten second spell of the fight by the end of the third, although he had managed to take away Ward’s left-hook with his high guard. Still, Ward was finding him with the late punches in combinations and with that jab.

Ward flirted with a guard-splitting uppercut in the fourth and began to relax into the fluidity of his offence, spared the vague possibility of any rust gumming up the works by the fact that Smith wasn’t really bothering to fight. Ward went to the body in the fifth but was twice warned to keep them up by the referee, sending him back to the head, but hurtful jabs to the body were his preferred flavour at the opening of the sixth. Pegged to the canvas by his own limitations and Ward’s brilliance, Smith looked a well-worn punching bag and as the round wound down as Ward’s right handsbegan to creep in.

Finally Smith’s moment came – and went – in the seventh as he landed a stinging right hand over the top, winging a left behind it, catching Ward near flush. This punch, if nothing else, reminded us that Ward had a solid chin. Ward celebrated this news with surgical precision, opening Smith up with punches, cracking him with rights of his own at bell. That such a one-sided fight had been allowed to reach the eighth seemed both strange and explicable in the light of Smith’s safety-first strategy. He bled freely from the left-eye but seemed determined to take his beating like a man, walking in, dipping and jabbing for openings, generally finding a punch for his trouble, a left uppercut up the middle the pick of the bunch. Smith, his face now a mask of red, looked a little sorry for himself in his corner between the eighth and ninth.

The advice dished out to Ward in his corner, meanwhile, was chilling – Ward was to “stop fooling around” and “ice” Smith. Generally, Ward doesn’t take corner advice well. Like his friend and mentor Bernard Hopkins he has the look of a man who may be content to listen politely but knows his own mind. On this occasion, he seemed happy to oblige. Ward beat Smith to a standstill, chucking rights over the top and into Smith’s seemingly unprotected face; suddenly Smith’s guard was meaningless and Ward was free to do what he wanted. Smith never quit – he was front and centre throughout – but when the towel came fluttering from Smith’s corner I felt relief rather than disappointment. The glorified spar was at an end.

Smith, who embarrassed himself with his inability to make an agreed weight well above the 168lbs limit he favours, will return to the UK and have success at British and European level. He will deserve that success. He’s a heart-fuelled fighter, for all that he never really showed that in Oakland this evening. And Ward? What does this victory mean for him?

Something and nothing, I would suggest. I suspect that Ward will re-emerge on a handful of pound-for-pound lists over coming weeks but don’t believe the hype. Beating Smith does not make Ward one of the ten most accomplished fighters in the world and wouldn’t even if he had out-boxed Godzilla back in 2013. Ward has a long way to go to claim his likely birthright, that of the best fighter in the world and his destruction of Paul Smith brings him no closer than Odysseus blinding the Cyclops brought him closer to home. There is an ocean to cross and suitors to best before he ascends to that throne, if he ever does.

It must also be uncertain whether his future even lies at super-middleweight. Ward hasn’t made 168lbs since the end of 2013 and the 172lb figure was Ward’s idea. Smith, ironically, favoured 170lbs but Ward declined – what was it about making 170lbs that Ward disliked? If he can still make super-middleweight with ease, German Robert Stieglitz and Brit James DeGale will be keen opposition, but are far from being marquee names. Arthur Abraham is ranked #1 in the division currently but Ward beat him twelve rounds to zero four years ago; it is unlikely that there will be public appetite for a rematch. Despite the one-sided nature of their contest, a rematch with Froch would be valid given Froch’s form since their first match, but the Englishman speaks of meeting Ward again only on the condition that they box in his hometown of Nottingham. This will not happen.

So perhaps Ward’s future lies with the twin moons of Golovkin and Kovalev still. Certainly nobody will be complaining about the opposition on the night of those meetings.


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The Ali-Shavers Fight and the Ever-Present Open Scoring Debate



Ali defended

Saturday, Sept. 29, marks the 41st anniversary of Muhammad Ali’s last successful title defense. The 35-year-old Ali defended his WBA and WBC belts against Earnie Shavers, a devastating puncher, but otherwise limited, in Madison Square Garden. Those tuning in to the Thursday night fight on NBC, an estimated 70 million, were able to track the round-by-round scoring. And therein lies an interesting tale.

A bit of background. Technically, the first instance of open scoring, at least as it pertained to television, was to have been implemented by Ted Nathanson, producer for NBC Sports, which televised the May 11, 1977, heavyweight bout pitting Ken Norton against Duane Bobick in Madison Square Garden. Although on-site spectators would not have been privy to round-by-round scoring, the TV audience would have had such access. The grand experiment proved dead on arrival, however, when Norton needed only 58 seconds of the first round to blast out Bobick.

Nathanson was nothing if not determined, however, and he successfully lobbied for the same format to be used for the Ali-Shavers fight. As was the case for Norton-Bobick, spectators in the arena would not have the same access to the round-by-round scoring as would NBC viewers. The New York State Athletic Commission, then headed by former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, signed off on the arrangement with NBC with some hesitation.

John F.X. Condon, vice president of Garden Boxing, said he originally had planned to show the round-by-round scoring on the huge overhead screen to the 14,613 on-site spectators, but he decided against it. “We didn’t think it was wise,” Condon concluded. “Personally, I think it also detracts from the pleasure of watching at home. Fight fans like to get involved. They like the uncertainty of waiting for the final decision.”

Even more adamant in his opposition to open scoring, in any form, was legendary Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner, who said he would do everything in his power to ensure that the NBC experiment would be a one-and-done, at least if he had anything to say about it. “I am against it,” Brenner stressed. “We at the Garden plan to do something about it.”

Unlike Norton-Bobick, Ali-Shavers would go the 15-round distance, with scoring on a round basis instead of the 10-point-must system now in place. Ali won by 9-5-1 on the card submitted by referee Johnny LoBianco and by 9-6 on the cards turned in by judges Tony Castellano and Eva Shain, the latter of who made history as the first woman ever to work a big-time fight. It was Ali’s 19th victorious title defense.

Garden officials were embarrassed, however, when a question of fairness was raised. The NBC telecast was shown in Ali’s dressing room, and a runner was assigned to keep Ali trainer Angelo Dundee informed of the judges’ evolving scores. The Shavers dressing room did not have similar access, which led his manager, Frank Luca, to complain of preferential treatment being granted to Ali. He said the NYSAC even attempted to obligate the fighters to use 10-ounce gloves instead of eight-ouncers, a change which was not approved but would have been detrimental to the harder-hitting challenger.

When informed of a playing field seemingly tilted to favor Ali, Patterson said the NYSAC never again would consent to open scoring at any venue in the state, be it for on-site spectators or just TV. “That will be stopped,” Patterson said. “I understand Angelo Dundee had someone running back to get him information and the other corner didn’t. That’s not fair. It could influence a fight, affect gambling in the arena with cheaters. It was not a success and it will never happen again.”

Shavers, who went into the Ali fight with a 54-5-1 record that included 52 wins inside the distance, said he might have fought differently – yeah, right – had he been apprised of the round-by-round scoring. “My corner told me I was ahead,” he lamented. “I didn’t go for the knockout. I would have put more pressure on him, taken more chances.”

Promoter Don King pushed for open scoring on May 5, 1994, at a Las Vegas press conference to hype the pay-per-view card two nights later at the MGM Grand headlined by WBC super lightweight champion Frankie Randall’s rematch with Julio Cesar Chavez, whom he had controversially outpointed nearly four months earlier.

“Progress can’t be stopped,” King said with his trademark bluster and hyperventilation. “It’s time for a change. Bring boxing out of the dark and into the light. People who go to football and basketball games know what the score is at all times. Why should boxing be the only sport where judges pass little scraps of paper back and forth and nobody else knows who’s winning until the end?”

King said he had been “excoriated and vilified” for having promoted two bouts during the previous eight months that ended in questionable decisions, and that open scoring could eliminate or reduce the problem.

“If anything controversial happens, people will be calling for (WBC president) Jose Sulaiman and me to be ridden out of town on a rail,” King continued. “One little controversy and these four great (rematches, the others being Simon Brown vs. Terry Norris, Gerald McClellan vs. Julian Jackson and Azumah Nelson vs. Jesse James Leija) suddenly become secondary. I don’t want that to happen.”

His Hairness indisputably was on target in noting that the two referenced bouts, in which Pernell Whitaker retained his WBC welterweight title on a majority draw against Chavez on Sept. 10, 1993, and Randall nipped Chavez on a split decision in large part because JCC had been docked two penalty points by referee Richard Steele, were controversial. Most ringside observers had Whitaker winning eight to 10 of the 12 rounds in San Antonio, Texas, and were it not for the two penalty points Chavez would have won a split decision instead of losing by the same margin.

Although King advocated for open scoring to be instituted immediately, he had to know that the wheels of change do not move that swiftly in Nevada or any other jurisdiction. But Marc Ratner, the executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, while expressing his own doubts as to the usefulness of open scoring, said such a proposal at least merited further scrutiny.

“For this particular card, there will be no open scoring,” Ratner said. “But we’re not ostriches. We don’t have our heads in the sand. This is an issue that should be studied.”

Studied and almost certainly likely to be rejected, as it later was by the NSAC, for reasons that to Ratner were even more glaringly obvious than those offered by King for the other course of action.

“What if two fighters accidentally butt heads in the fourth round and one of them suffers a cut?” hypothesized Ratner. “If the bleeding fighter is ahead on the scorecards, his corner might be tempted not to close the cut, thereby prompting the bout’s premature conclusion and a decision victory.”

An even more compelling reason to forever squash the notion of full-blown open scoring holds that a fighter, if he knows he is sufficiently ahead entering the late rounds to be uncatchable on the scorecards, would get on his bicycle and pedal around the ring to eliminate or at least reduce the risk of being knocked out. Such a safety-first approach would drain whatever measure of hope still existed for the losing fighter banking on a puncher’s-chance turnaround.

We haven’t heard the last of the open scoring debate. The subject came up again in the aftermath of the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch, a tightly contested bout which Alvarez won by majority decision, much to the displeasure of Golovkin and his supporters. But for now, fight fans must continue to live with the occasional scorecard that defies credulity. And while too much controversy is never a good thing, some of it helps sell the sport and keeps interest high up to and even beyond the final bell. The alternative is the elimination of uncertainty, and with it the magic that sometimes is produced when two fighters believe success hinges on giving maximum effort to the very last punch.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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George Groves and Callum Smith Finally Meet in the WBSS Capstone




The 168-pound tournament of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series, an 8-man invitational, kicked off on Sept. 16 of last year with a match between Callum Smith and Erik Skoglund at Liverpool, England. Tournaments of this nature in boxing almost never play out as planned and this tourney was no exception. But on Friday we will finally crown a winner when Smith meets George Groves at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, of all places. At stake will be the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy and the bundle of cash that comes with it and Groves’ WBA “super” world super middleweight title.

Despite the odd location, this is a domestic affair. Groves, the top seed, and Smith, the #2 seed, are both Englishmen. And if the fight were on British soil, it would have certainly drawn well. In the UK, Groves is enormously popular. His second fight with Carl Froch attracted a crowd of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium, a British post-war record eventually broken by Joshua-Klitschko.

Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) suffered his lone defeats at the hands of Froch, who defeated him twice, and Badou Jack, and there’s no shame there. Carl Froch, in the minds of many, has a plaque waiting for him at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Jack, a title-holder in two weight classes, is currently ranked #1 as a light heavyweight by the WBA and WBC.

Although both fights with Froch ended inside the distance, both were nip-and-tuck until Froch closed the curtain. Badou Jack defeated Groves by split decision in Las Vegas.

Groves has a high boxing IQ as he demonstrated on Feb 17 in Manchester where he scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Chris Eubank Jr. Groves, observed ringside reporter Gareth Davies, “was just a step too far, too strong and ultimately too technical and experienced in the championship rounds.” Eubank’s father and trainer Chris Eubank Sr. saluted Groves for fighting the perfect fight.

The victory was bittersweet as Groves dislocated his left shoulder in the final round. It required surgery, pushing back the finale until this Friday, a full two months after the conclusion of the other WBSS tourney, for cruiserweights, the finale of which was also pushed back from the originally scheduled date. For a time the promoters seriously considered bumping Eubank into the finals in place of the incapacitated Groves but eventually thought better of it. (Eubank will appear on the undercard in a stay-busy fight against Ireland’s J.J. McDonagh.)

Callum Smith (24-0, 18 KOs) is the youngest of four fighting brothers, each of whom captured one or more regional titles. In the family, the relationship between talent and birth order is inverse, which is to say that Paul Smith, the oldest of the foursome, wasn’t as good as his younger brother Stephen and Stephen wasn’t as good as younger brother Liam.

Liam “Beefy” Smith accomplished what his two older brothers could not, winning a world title. He won the WBO 154-pound diadem in his twenty-second fight and successfully defended the belt twice before it was sheared from him by Canelo Alvarez who knocked him out in the ninth round.

If Callum Smith wins on Friday, he will be recognized by hardcore fans as a more legitimate champion than was the case with his brother Liam. That’s because Callum, who stands six-foot-three (none of his brothers is taller than 5’11”), was touted from the very onset of his career as the most gifted of the fighting Smith brothers. He solidified that opinion in November of 2015 when he knocked out Liverpool rival Rocky Fielding in the opening round. Fielding went on to win the “regular” version of the WBA 168-pound title and that remains the only blemish on his record.

In recent bouts, however, Smith hasn’t looked that sharp. His last two opponents, the aforementioned Skoglund and Neiky Holzken, lasted the full 12 rounds. The obscure Holzken, a converted kickboxer from the Netherlands, was a late sub for Juergen Braehmer who was forced to bow out of the tournament with an illness.

George Groves was a slight underdog to Eubank. On Friday, the odds favor him, but only slightly. At last look it was 13/10 which portends a very close fight. Groves has the edge in experience and in ring savvy and has fought tougher opposition, but Smith will have a three-and-a-half inch height advantage and is judged to be the harder puncher.

Fight fans in the U.S. can access the fight on the new DAZN app. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is seven hours ahead of New York and other precincts in the Eastern Time Zone and adjust accordingly.

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



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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