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Tim Bradley's Long Mechanical Journey

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By David A. Avila

While Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley sat comfortably chatting about his changes in fighting style it reminded me of the journey he began many years ago at an outdoor venue in Corona.

It was August 2004 when Bradley first stepped into a prize ring in the city of Corona, a town that boxing historians know brought the world Manuel Ortiz, perhaps the greatest bantamweight in the history of the sport.

During Bradley’s pro debut, under the hot summer sky, it was obvious that he possessed speed and athleticism above the norm. But his style was amateurish, featuring plenty of running, flashy combinations and a Sugar Ray Leonard type of showmanship. Fans were not pleased.

“When we first saw him we realized he was a diamond in the rough,” said Ken Thompson, president of Thompson Boxing Promotions.

But each fight Bradley adapted more pro elements to his game under the tutelage of trainer Joel Diaz, a former prizefighter who fought for a world title. The Diaz style of boxing focused on the boxer/puncher style that he and his brothers Antonio and Julio Diaz used in their careers. It was an effective method of attack for the pros.

“He was improving in every single fight,” said Thompson who promoted Bradley’s first 27 pro bouts.

Fight by fight the Palm Springs prizefighter began absorbing the pro boxing style and fans began to appreciate it at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. They began to talk about the kid from the desert who was simply too fast and strong for most youngsters he faced in 2004.

Bradley’s first venture outside of the comforts of home came when the next year he was matched against an unknown Brazilian at the downtown Los Angeles Athletic Club. It was to be Bradley’s showcase for L.A. fans.

When the intro music for Bradley’s opponent played, a tall slender Brazilian walked up to the ring. He looked to be six or seven inches taller than Bradley and his record was advertised as no wins and one loss; in fact he had seven wins and one loss. It was hidden from the matchmaker.

Up to that moment Bradley had breezed through six opponents. But on that evening on July 2005, the Palm Springs fighter would be tested to the fullest.

Brazilian lesson

The historic L.A. Athletic Club dates back to 1880 and its members included legendary power brokers like Henry Huntington, Edward L. Doheny, Charlie Chaplin and Colonel Harrison Otis whose family then owned the L.A. Times.

Bradley quickly found himself in a firefight that night for the first time in his professional career. Before that his natural athleticism put him miles ahead of previous opponents that were helpless to deal with his speed and agility.

Marcos Andre Rocha Costa towered over Bradley when they were introduced in the boxing ring and stood facing each other. It was almost comical the size disparity between the two boxers as part of the crowd seemed amazed that a young professional fighter would be matched against someone much taller. The more amazing issues would soon follow.

Once the first bell rang and fighting commenced, it was clear that Costa could fight. And one more thing, he was a southpaw with speed and power. Bradley had problems like never before trying to get within the Brazilian’s long reach. Time and time again he tried finding the right timing until he decided to take his chances and withstand fire to give fire.

It worked.

Bradley began catching Costa with punches as he dived in through a windmill of blows. Things were beginning to turn around until suddenly Bradley dove right into a left cross and was slightly staggered. The Brazilian immediately unloaded some more blows and kept on until the bell ended the round. It seemed Bradley was in serious trouble.

Entering the fifth round it was make or break for Bradley who had been hurt. Could he recover from the jolt or would he climb into a shell and try to survive? The answer came quick as the Palm Springs boxer charged the tall Brazilian and unloaded a furious barrage. Immediately he hurt the surprised Costa and followed it up with a vicious assault that finally forced referee Pat Russell to end the fight at 2:15 of the fifth round. Bradley won by knockout against a very good opponent.

“He put his heart and soul into it,” Thompson remembers. “We did not bring him up on ham and eggers.”

It would be the start of Bradley’s journey and the beginning of a string of fights that would lead him into the upper tier of prizefighting.

In most of his fights the Palm Springs boxer was almost always the shorter man in the boxing ring. The year 2007 was the beginning of his televised bouts and ended with Bradley facing then unknown Miguel “El Titere” Vazquez of Mexico, who would later reign as a lightweight world champion. Vazquez would be the first of a dozen world champions that Bradley would face and defeat inside the prize ring.

Championship fights

After signing a co-promotional agreement with Gary Shaw Productions, the first world title shot would force Bradley to travel to England to face WBC titlist Junior Witter. Few knew who Bradley was. It’s probable that trainer Joel Diaz was more well-known than Bradley at that time in 2008.

“He had Joel Diaz as trainer from day one. He’s one of the top five trainers in the world,” Thompson says. “He did a remarkable job.”

Witter’s style was perplexing to most that faced the quickster from Nottingham known as “the Hitter.” Bradley blitzed through him with surprising speed. Before the fight most experts felt Witter was too fast, but it was the contrary.

Speed was always Bradley’s primary weapon, yet every time he faced a top tier opponent or a world champion experts felt he was the slower man. It happened quite often and especially against Devon Alexander when they met. Experts claimed Alexander had the speed advantage despite Bradley’s dispatching of Witter, Kendall Holt, Edner Cherry, Nate Campbell, and Luis Abregu.

“We knew he could beat anybody,” Thompson said.

After defeating Alexander, it was a parting of ways between Bradley and Thompson Boxing Promotions. At the time a contract had been signed that would have paired Bradley with Amir Khan and set up a possible showdown with Floyd Mayweather. Bradley chose another path and signed with Top Rank.

“That was the direction — we were going after Mayweather,” said Thompson, adding that Bradley still succeeded under Top Rank. “But Bob Arum is a great promoter.”

Top Ranks road

The chase was on for Bradley to meet Manny Pacquiao. When the Palm Springs prizefighter was introduced to the media at the Beverly Hills Hotel in a small gathering of media, it was voiced by both the promoter and fighter that Pacquiao was the desired target.

Pacquiao was running out of opponents and had just defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in their third encounter. Though it was razor close, another fight with Marquez was not desired. Bradley was chosen and it’s what he wanted.

“First fight was very close. It could have gone either way,” says Bradley. “The first fight I was able to beat Manny and honestly 2012 was one of his best years. He was still top dog.”

But Pacquiao’s fans were incensed and believed the Filipino superstar was robbed. Instead of a rematch Bradley was paired against Russian slugger Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley was out to prove himself against the fearsome Provodnikov. He won the rousing skirmish by a unanimous decision, but nearly paid with his life. Then despite using his boxing skills to defeat the always dangerous Marquez, a return match with Pacquiao found Bradley trying to go toe-to-toe with Pacman.

“Going back to the Ruslan fight, that fight was brutal and took a lot out of me. That punch that I got from Jessie Vargas really opened my eyes,” Bradley said, and he called Teddy Atlas for a neutral observer’s opinion.

Decision time saw Bradley decide he must change his fighting style again.

“After that conversation I had with Teddy nobody had ever had the knowledge to tell me how to avoid that punch. I said I want Teddy Atlas to train me. My wife was kind of shocked because she knows how loyal I am to the people, to trainers, and to people that have always had my back. I was willing to make that change because it was the right time to make that decision for my sake,” said Bradley at his personal gym last week. “It’s not that I didn’t get the job done with Joel Diaz, he’s a great trainer too. I guess I stopped listening to him and stopped believing in him. We were just going through the motions in the gym.”

When Top Rank announced that Brandon Rios would face Bradley after destroying Mike Alvarado nearly a year earlier, fans were jubilant. It was also announced that Bradley had a new trainer and few could foresee the change in style that would ensue.

“I know I was a five time world champion but I was taking a lot of punishment. To be able to remain in the business and fight a longer fight and to be able to hold my children some day and have all my faculties, that was very important to me,” Bradley said. “My wife said ‘Tim you can’t keep taking these punches, you can’t keep fighting this way.’ And I was, you’re right.”

Mechanical adjustments

Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios has that flair for prizefighting both in and out of the prize ring. He’s a throwback to the 1940s when guys like Rocky Graziano, Tony Zale and Sugar Ray Robinson ruled the boxing world and talked out of the side of their mouth.

When it was first announced more than half believed Rios could wreck Bradley’s change in direction like salt in a gas tank. On more than one occasion Rios bludgeoned his way to victory. Whether it was by a clean knockout or a dirty blood spit affair with elbows, eye gouging and low blows, he always found a way to the victory stand. Could Bradley contend with Rios?

It was a big question when they entered the boxing ring at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas last November.

Bradley was like a spinning top zipping from point to point with effortless motion until body shots dropped Rios twice in the ninth round and Rios signaled it was over.

“Want to know why he quit? Because he was getting beat every round. I was doing everything I needed to do to make him say I’m done,” said Bradley of Rios. “Rios was saying to himself ‘He’s not letting me land that big shot I was looking for.’ That’s all he was looking for…one shot.”

Bradley was within striking distance for himself, but never to allow Rios to strike back. It was a matter of angles and positioning.

Pacquiao is now in the picture again for a third time and Bradley is ready to put his new mechanics to the test.

“I think mechanically I’m a more disciplined fighter now and I’ll have a better chance of beating Manny Pacquiao; just being solid on fundamentals. Most of the guys that faced him that were fundamentally solid gave him problems. Marquez put him on the ground. He’s always set and gave him problems. Floyd, the same thing: Always there, always solid and ready to punch. Erik Morales, same thing. Always solid. Not spooked by what they see. Not spooked by his movement. They know exactly what they’re looking at,” said Bradley of opponents that gave Pacquiao problems and losses. “This time I know exactly what I’m looking at. I know what type of animal he is, what type of fighter he is.”

Bradley feels the adjustments in his fighting style and the insights into Pacquiao’s style pointed out to him by Atlas will change the outcome.

“A lot of that has changed now. I don’t get on both toes as much anymore. I’m a little bit more solid with my stance now. I approach a little bit more flat footed in the ring; I kind of slide around the ring now.  There are more little subtle changes than ever before,” said Bradley. “Breaking him down on film, there are four things he does very well. And he does it over and over and over and over. He does them very well.”

It’s a matter of mechanics for Bradley this time.

“This time around I’m clear headed and I know what I got to do,” Bradley said.

 

 

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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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