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The 50 Greatest Lightweights of all Time Part Two: 40-31

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Floyd Mayweather

by Matt McGrain

Rules are everything.

Whether it’s the laws of physics describing the impact of a left hook upon a granite jaw or the Sweet Science’s editor applying the rules of grammar to the work we writers “bless” him with, they describe what we see, do and feel.  The process of ordering the Fifty Greatest Lightweights of all time, too, is a process described by rules.

Often, these rules throw up numbering that is counter-intuitive.  There is a fine example in this, the second installment in this series, at numbers 38 through 35.  At 38 and 37, I name two of the greatest fighters in history, while at 36 and 35 I name two fighters who were never named true champion and who own but a modicum of the fame commanded by the two men they rank directly above.  But the rules of this process say that actual achievement within the given division is far and away the most important factor and that fame and overall greatness achieved out-with the division count for less.  This is why we run across rankings that are counter-intuitive.

36 and 35 just did more at lightweight than 37 and 38.  They defeated more ranked contenders, achieved greater longevity in the division and also happened to be among the very, very best fighters at the poundage in their own eras.

Keep that in mind as we run down the fortieth to thirty-first greatest lightweights in history.

 

#40 – Billy Petrolle (89-21-10; Newspaper Decisions 34-4-6)

Billy Petrolle did wonders at the limit of 140lbs and against small welterweights.  He took scalps like Jimmy McLarnin, Battling Battalino and Jimmy Goodrich above the limit that interests us here, spreading his excellence over three weight divisions and perhaps not getting his due upon any of these lists for that fact.

Luck, too, was against him, in his career.

1932: after more than 100 contests, Petrolle finally gets his shot at the lightweight title.  The champion is Tony Canzoneri, a hideous vapor of feints and counter-intuition.  Canzoneri’s left was never better and for many, this was the absolute peak of his incredible career.  Petrolle, maybe – maybe – could have matched or run him close at his own spectacular best but he had a disastrous battle with the poundage in the week before the fight.  His bob and weave, normally so difficult to time, repeatedly saw him bob up onto the Canzoneri left; he dropped a fifteen round decision.  He would never be champion.

This was all the more frustrating because two months before Canzoneri lifted the lightweight title, Petrolle had beaten him.  Stopped only twice at the poundage, by injury, he had courage and pressure to match that chin and he had a left-hook as fine as any in that stacked division outside of perhaps Canzoneri himself.  1-1 is nothing to sniff at, but working entirely within the weight range we are interested in, his next best scalp belongs to Jack “Kid” Berg, and again, Petrolle failed to prove his superiority going 1-1-1.  A series of defeats to the likes of Ray Miller (with whom he also went 1-1-1), Sammy Mandell, King Tut and Tommy Herman also exercises some drag, and for all that it must be allowed that a breakneck schedule like the one he fought to – Petrolle made as many as 24 matches in a year – is going to kick up some losses, Billy had a habit of losing the fight that really mattered.

This puts him below fighters who never proved themselves quite as special but who were a little luckier.

#39 – Edwin Rosario (47-6)

Edwin Rosario had the same unfortunate habit as Petrolle, namely that of losing to the best fighters he fought.  This is a typical habit and one held to by surprisingly great fighters, but in Rosario’s case it is hard to argue that Jose Luis Ramirez, Hector Camacho and Julio Cesar Chavez are the most gifted fighters “Chapo” tangled with.  But for all that Chavez dominated him, these three didn’t have it all their own way and against Ramirez, at least, he also posted a win.  That win, for me, was slightly fortuitous and I think Ramirez can count himself a little unlucky.  Rosario dialed in his right hand in the opening six, which he dominated, but Ramirez’s wonderful shepherding footwork and body attack took its toll late and Rosario found himself unable to control the action, his seemingly perennially injured right no longer a factor.  Regardless the judges gave Rosario the fight.

If he was fortunate (and that’s just one man’s opinion) he didn’t hide behind his fortune; in defense of the vacant strap he won against Ramirez he met ranked men, blasting out Roberto Elizondo in a single round in 1984, that right the most important punch once more, and taking a decision from Howard Davis Jr.  Decking Davis with a left hand in the last round is what made the difference in another desperately close fight, underlining the Puerto Rican’s two-handedness, but Ramirez then exacted a terrible revenge, stopping him in four.

After another hurtful (but close) loss to Hector Camacho, Rosario came again, stopping the superb Livingstone Bramble in just two rounds before Julio Cesar Chavez arrived on the scene.

After that terrible encounter, Rosario would never defeat another ranked fighter.

This leaves him with a ledger of 4-3 against Ring ranked lightweights.  Numerically, it’s not a great mark to leave upon the sport, but Rosario ran into some tough hombres.

#38 – Floyd Mayweather Jr. (49-0)

Floyd Mayweather staged a brief, jabbing drive-by of the lightweight division in 2002 to 2003, a visitation defined by his two-fight rivalry with Jose Luis Castillo (more of whom later).The first fight is the most controversial in the Mayweather canon.  Starting aggressively, Mayweather stabbed with the jab, bagged the first four rounds on my card and seemed in total control.  Then, one of two things happened.  Either Floyd exacerbated a shoulder-injury sustained in training or the clash of styles favored Castillo enough that Mayweather found himself under unprecedented pressure.  Certainly, Castillo made him work, getting closer and closer, buying inches with every half-step and forcing Floyd to flee before him.  This was Mayweather at the end of his first career (Pretty Boy) and beginning of his second (Money) without yet having the studied economy that would sustain him in his quest to dominate bigger men.

Castillo was able to build a head of steam, rattling after him with handfuls of bruising body-punches.  My card says Castillo won, barely, and for those who were dismayed by the rise and rise of the man called “Money”, this fight would remain the crown-jewel of their criticism and certainly it is the closest this Rolls Royce came to engine trouble.  For me, the result was not so controversial.  I thought many of the rounds were close, arguable, and although I do not care for the official scorecards, I think a narrow Mayweather win would have been reasonable.

Having taken the decision against the world’s best lightweight in controversial circumstances, Mayweather dealt the closest thing he would ever have to a nemesis back in with an immediate rematch.  Here began the Mayweather “procession,” his relentless spearing of a bigger man who came to apply pressure, a style not beloved by the fans but one that made him the richest boxer in history.  In truth, there were breathtaking moments.  In the eleventh, with the fight still in the balance, Mayweather turned in a wonderful variety of punches, leading with rights, countering with uppercuts, snapping off the left hook that had been the bane of Castillo throughout.  When Castillo dropped his head to bull, Mayweather would throw that left, countering not just Castillo’s movements but his very essence.  This fight is closer than is generally accepted in my opinion, but there was only one winner.

Depending upon your own personal view of the term lineage, one or the other of these fights made Mayweather the first lineal champion since Pernell Whitaker, and sealed his legacy at the weight.  One of the true jab clinics against Victoriano Sosa and an astonishing show against puncher Phillip Ndou built upon the right hand were the defenses he staged of the lineal title and sneaks him into the top forty.

So lightweight delivers head-to-head monsters in just the second sitting.

#37 – Julio Cesar Chavez (107-6-2)

Here is another one.

Just as Mosley’s lightweight career mirrors Crawford’s, so the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez’s mirrors that of fellow great Mayweather.  While Mayweather jabbed and slipped his way to pre-eminence in his stay at the poundage, Chavez marauded his way to the top.  Although Mayweather spent more time in the ring with ranked men, Chavez destroyed his with such imperiousness and those men were of such quality that he stands a barrier to a higher ranking for Mayweather.

Enjoying the occasional sojourn from 130lbs to 135lbs as he cut his teeth at the lighter poundage, Chavez arrived in earnest in the division in 1987 at the expense of the superb Edwin Rosario.

Rosario was a wonderful lightweight and a wonderful puncher; Chavez brushed him aside like he was nothing.  It was an astonishing performance, one of the best that can be seen on film at any weight and perhaps the single best performance by any lightweight ranked outside the top ten.  Chavez wove punches through the eye of the proverbial needle that night and from the very first round.  Rasario is disciplined, neat in defense, but Chavez, using the bare minimum in terms of room, happily found him with combinations as complex as a double-uppercut, liver-shot  with withering regularity.  Much of the success Rosario had on offense was left-handed – Chavez swallowed the puncher’s blows without a blink, kept him smothered, did the superior work.  On the rare occasions he allowed Rosario to charge, he out-flanked him with head-movement and surging counter-attacks.  He didn’t lose a round.

While Mayweather beat a wonderful drum with his jab, Chavez gave a clinic in combination punching and all that stopped him was the inevitable crumble of his world-class opponent.  After ten rounds of hard work taking fire from a world class puncher, Chavez literally runs out of his corner for the eleventh.  You could almost see Rosario deflate.  He lasted another two minutes, full of guts.

Another first rate lightweight, Jose Luis Ramirez was in desperate need of guts when he met Chavez a year later.  Here, Chavez boxed quite differently, the drip-torture feed of his numbing right hand and his terrifying economy in wasting so few punches proving far too much for the veteran when a clash of heads and resulting cut to Ramirez called for the judges scorecards after ten.

Chavez was on rare form at 135lbs and perhaps could have ruled until Whitaker.  A shallow resume and a paucity of quality title-defenses keep him from the royal climates above, but he was a devastating lightweight.

#36 – Lockport Jimmy Duffy (36-8-4; Newspaper Decisions 60-12-26)

Lockport Jimmy Duffy turned professional in 1908, so while his record indicates he fell four wins short of the magical 100 mark, in reality he probably managed it; even among the elite for the era, fights tended to go unrecorded.

What we know about Duffy, though, makes him more than qualified for this list.

He never fought for the world title, but he bested champions, most prominent among them the great Freddie Welsh.  Duffy was never the pre-eminent lightweight during his career, but he got the best of a series with a man who was, beating Welsh twice to one loss, even dropping him for a short count in their second encounter in 1914.  He also took a decision from Johnny Dundee, the great featherweight and a contender for the #50 slot on this lightweight list.

Joe Shugrue was a superb boxer whose career was cut short by eye trouble and one who, despite inconsistency, was able to beat almost anyone on his day, including one Benny Leonard – Duffy took a ten round decision from him during World War One.  Leach Cross defeated Battling Nelson in November of 1912, but two months either side of this excellent result he dropped a DQ loss and a newspaper decision to Duffy.  Jack Britton, one of the greatest welterweights of all time, had the clear beating of Duffy at 147lbs, but during his lightweight apprenticeship, Duffy twice got the better of him.

Duffy was a giant, for his era, standing more than 5’10” with a reach pushing 72”, making him both taller and rangier than the most recent lineal champion, Terence Crawford.  He used his gifts, pumping out a left jab, keeping opponents at range while piling up points on the cards.

It made him one of the crack lightweights of a golden era, and a name sadly lost, for the most part, to boxing in 2016.  This is unjust.

#35 – Sid Terris (93-13-4; Newspaper Decisions 6-0-1)

Sid Terris was a contemporary of the great Benny Leonard and according to some, at least, bore comparison for all that he was clearly the inferior model.  “Terris was fondled like a second Benny Leonard in New York,” wrote Sam Levy in late 1926.  “Sidney could move with the speed of the old champion and he was just about his equal as a boxer, but lacked his prestigious hitting power.”  He noted, however, that there was an “existing doubt in the minds of the fistic jurists regarding the courage of Terris.”

This doubt was placed in the mind of the “fistic jurists” by a 1924 loss to Eddie Wagner, a six round stoppage in which Terris was said to show yellow.  Terris avenged himself on Wagner and went on a 45-1-1 tear up through the lightweight division that saw him out-think and out-move a veritable smorgasbord of contenders.

He defeated Mickey Walker’s two-time dance partner Ace Hudkins in a “ten round thriller” that saw him handled in the fourth and seventh but come blazing back to dominate his brutish foe in the tenth for a narrow decision.  Terris was a defensive specialist who may have operated only a single level below the genius Leonard but he was, like The Ghetto Wizard (Terris carried the moniker “Ghetto Ghost”) capable of turning the tables with real violence when called upon to do so.  He was called upon to do so against Billy Petrolle, who he met in 1926.  After a fast start, Terris was savaged by a rampant Petrolle in the eighth and ninth but stood his ground to blast out the tenth and take a narrow decision once more.

These occasionally thrilling battles boosted his popularity and quieted accusations that he was “just a dancer,” a fighter who liked to peck out decisions but was afraid to hit the trenches.  He hit the trenches in 1927 against feared puncher Billy Wallace.  Smashed to the canvas in the first, Terris fought back in a manner Leonard himself would have been proud of, and although ringsiders seem split as to who deserved the decision, it was Terris who got the nod.  Stanislaus Loayza, Jack Bernstein, Basil Galiano, Rocky Kansas, Jimmy Goodrich and Johnny Dundee all got the Terris treatment at one time or another and although many of them, like he, are not household names, they were all ranked men.

Nor is the list exhaustive.  Terris wasn’t a great lightweight and he never held the title, but he lists among the division’s most storied contenders.

#34 – Wesley Ramey (141-28-12; Newspaper Decisions 11-0-2)

Wesley Ramey turned professional as a lightweight in the 1920s and he retired as a lightweight in the 1940s.  Most of the fighters on this list, even legendary lightweights such as Joe Gans and Roberto Duran, did not sacrifice their entire careers to 135lbs.  What this means is that nearly every one of the 150 wins Ramey posted in his career were at the expense of a fellow lightweight and makes his resume at the poundage an exceptional one.

Of course it also means that most of the losses were suffered at 135lbs too, but this needs to be quantified.  He posted six of those losses in the final two years of his lightweight odyssey and several more during his ill-fated tour of Australia which included a loss at welterweight to legendary Ozzy Jack Carroll.  Between his schedule and longevity, losses were inevitable.

Ramey’s greatest night, however, came against legendary lightweight Tony Canzoneri.  Canzoneri, then the reigning lightweight champion of the world, was only a few months removed from his shattering performance against Billy Petrolle, a peak night for one of the great fighters; Ramey thrashed him in a non-title fight, winning all but two of the rounds on the Associated Press scorecard.  Canzoneri promised Ramey a title shot but had already signed to meet one Barney Ross.  Ross took Canzoneri and Ramey was frozen out.  On such moments, history turns.

That didn’t prevent Ramey defeating a long list of ranked contenders across the near twenty years for which he terrorized the division.  In the modern era he would have worn a strap, at the least.

#33 – Young Griffo (68-11-38; Newspaper Decisions 50-1-30)

A fighter like Young Griffo really tests a project such as this one.

Joe Gans named him the best defensive boxer he ever met; given the level of competition Gans was faced with in the course of his career this makes him as good as almost anyone to come out of boxing’s first fifty years.  But as Gans himself also observed, Griffo didn’t take his profession any more seriously than he took his training and seemed more enamored by hellraising than fighting, coming to the ring against even the greatest of his peers underprepared

Furthermore there is anecdotal evidence that Griffo’s main priority was to avoid defeat, not to achieve victory.  The rules of the day, which called for dominance in order that judges (or newspapers) might name a victor meant that there was a vast grey area in which a fighter could achieve a draw.  This made avoiding defeat a cinch for a fighter of Griffo’s great talent.

And so he scored many – nearly seventy of them, in fact, according to his most complete record.  That is absurd and makes judging him absurdly difficult.  Apart from Gans, with whom he boxed two draws, he fought stalemates with Frank Erne, Kid Lavigne and George Dixon, each of them among the very best fighters of their era.

But Griffo posted no wins in this type of company and many of those contests were farcical.  Chaotic draws with the likes of Lavigne are impressive but do they really forge a great legacy?  And what of persistent rumors that these results were agreed upon beforehand or that Griffo elicited his opponent’s co-operation during the contest?  The Australian will be back to torture me at featherweight, but as for lightweight, I can force him no higher.  It’s frustrating, because if he had applied himself in the same way that Wesley Ramey did, a spot in the top ten would have been his likely reward.  Even Gans and the other monstrous lightweights of his era may not have been able to stop his rise to the title – as it is we will never know, and Young Griffo fails to penetrate the top thirty.

#32 – Hector Camacho (79-6-3)

Despite boxing his way through the whole of the 1990s, Camacho never made the lightweight limit after 1986 and spent the early years of his career flitting between 130 and 135lbs.  No career lightweight then but the judderingly quick southpaw did inflict serious suffering upon the division in the early and mid-1980s.  Included in the suffering were two that readers of Part One and Two will be familiar with — Jose Luis Ramirez and Edwin Rosario.

Against Ramirez, Camacho’s dominance was a wonder.  He turned in a perfect performance, a true showcase for his wonderful speed; Camacho, arguably, is the fastest lightweight to appear on film and Ramirez is the fight where he really demonstrated that speed.  In the third, he dropped an axe-fall left hand on Ramirez to see him to the deck and only Ramirez’s equally wonderful toughness keeps him from the “ten” in this fight.

Rosario gave him more problems.  Quicker pressure, and that dangerous right-hand left Camacho wide open for lefts in the fifth and the eleventh and saw him on rubbery legs on two occasions.  Still, a wonderful engine kept Camacho a step ahead for seven of the twelve rounds and bought him a desperate split decision.  Lucky to avoid a point deduction for persistent fouling and arguably on the receiving end of a 10-8 round in the fifth, a draw would have been a reasonable result but given the referee’s position on the fouls, I think a Camacho win is the right result.

A true test of character for Camacho, there are those that believe that this fight turned him from an aggressive speedster into a stick-and-move merchant.  There is probably some truth to this; certainly for his next and last lightweight contest, against Cornelius Boza-Edwards, Camacho boxed carefully in taking a much more comfortable decision.

Then he bid the lightweight division, and any chance of making the top thirty on this list, adieu.

 #31 – Beau Jack (91-24-5)

Beau Jack only made the lightweight limit once after 1944 in his doomed tilt at the great Ike Williams, who then held the undisputed title.  Jack was a wonderful fighter, but one who stepped up in pursuit of cash and glory, leaving the poundage which best suited him behind.

Above the lightweight limit he scored great victories over the likes of Bob Montgomery, Bummy Davis, Sammy Angott, Lew Jenkins, Fritzie Zivic, and, most impressively, Henry Armstrong.  These are the results that made Beau Jack great but readers of these series’ will understand that he receives no credit for these victories here but rather is credited at welterweight and, of course, in a pound for pound sense.

His glittering ambition – which made him one of the most bankable stars of the era – limited his standing at lightweight to that which he achieved before 1944.  These are considerable, but not of the ilk that explains his high placement on Boxing Scene’s excellent top twenty-five.  Let’s take a look.

Jack’s finest win was over Bob Montgomery at the lightweight limit late in 1943 winning as many as ten and as few as seven on the scorecards of judges and ringsiders, but in all events winning more than his heavily favored opponent.  Montgomery was favored because he had defeated Jack for Jack’s lightweight strap six months before.  A brutal body attack registered early and by the end Jack was hanging on in desperation; in the rematch, he smothered the new belt-holder’s attack by keeping close and working hard.  The two fought on two more occasions, but Montgomery took the lightweight rubber to prove himself the better fighter at the 135lb limit.

Looking back over his earlier days in the division, Jack did good, but not great work.  His knockout victory over Tippy Larkin was impressive, and executed in just three rounds for the vacant NYSAC belt.  His best performance may have come during his run to that belt, a seven round hammering of number one contender Allie Stolz, who was heavily favored to beat him.  The United Press described his style as “hell-for-leather primitive pummelling” but the more scientifically gifted Stolz, who was riding a hot streak, hardly won a round.  A “menacing bundle of wiry muscle,” Jack applied fierce pressure upon the favorite, who melted before him.  I suspect Jack was never better at the weight, but if he was, it was probably against Juan Zurita, the NBA strapholder who forced Jack to the ring at 136lbs in order that his title would remain at his waist regardless.  Jack was made to miss often by Zurita but kept the pressure on to hammer out a ten round decision from the inside.

Jack beat both beltholders during his lightweight prime and was unquestionably the best lightweight in the world for a spell after his defeat of Montgomery and before Montgomery’s revenge; but he was never the lineal champion and, as described, the overwhelming number of his best wins came at 138lbs or above.

 

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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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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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