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TSS Survey: 30 Notables Weigh in on the Most Overrated and Underrated Boxers

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Overrated

PART ONE (A-K)  OF A TWO-PART SURVEY — In this month’s survey, we asked our respondents to name the most overrated and most underrated boxers, active or retired. There was little agreement in the overrated category although Joe Calzaghe and Mike Tyson were both named twice. This was not the case with the most underrated where Ezzard Charles (pictured) made a strong showing as did Mike McCallum. John Scully and J. Russell Peltz threw us a curve call by nominating Rocky Marciano in both categories.

Here are the responses with the respondents listed in alphabetical order:

MATT ANRZEJEWSKI – TSS boxing writerMost underrated: Junior Jones. He has a Hall of Fame resume that includes wins against Hall of Famers Marco Antonio Barrera and Orlando Canizales. Jones had tremendous boxing ability and one of the top jabs of his era. He is unfortunately judged too much on some losses, particularly a couple early in his career, but his body of work is outstanding and, in my opinion, he belongs in Canastota. The most overrated is Adrien Broner. I am not talking the current version of Broner but the prime version of a few years ago. Broner is a guy who beat up on “C” level fighters, struggled with “B” level type fighters and lost when he took any steps further up in class. Yes, he won some belts along the way but that is more the era we are in along with some excellent management.

JOE BRUNO former New York City sportswriter; prolific author: Overrated – Muhammad Ali, without a doubt. He was only the greatest because he said so. Lost a decision to Leon Spinks in Spinks eighth pro fight. Five losses total. Enough said. Underrated- Rocky Marciano – won 49 straight, 43 by KO and people still question his ability. He fought the best of his time; some of them twice. What else could he have done?

STEVE CANTON – author, historian and President of the Florida Boxing Hall Of Fame: Among the most underrated boxers, in my opinion, would have to be Davey Moore, the Springfield Rifle, featherweight champion from the 1950’s and 60’s. He was our U.S. representative in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and went on to a great professional career and was a dominant world champion until his untimely death following his ill-fated bout with Sugar Ramos. His final record was 59-7-1-1. Sadly, he has been overlooked for enshrinement into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Two other names who I feel are also underrated are Italian junior welterweight champion Duilio Loi who won two of three from the great Carlos Ortiz along with defeating many other top names and retired with a final record of 115-3-8 and Mike McCallum, who retired with a professional record of 49-5-1 and was 240-10 as an amateur. Although both Loi and McCallum have been inducted into the IBHOF their names are not really brought up with the all-time greats and they should be.

CHARLIE DWYER – former professional referee and member of U.S. Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame: The most underrated boxer is Ezzard Charles. He was heavyweight champion and fought the metal of his division. What is forgotten is the fact that he was one of the best light heavyweights of all time. He defeated many top light heavy contenders and KO’d the “Old Mongoose” Archie Moore. Most of Ezzard’s losses were near the end of his career when he probably shouldn’t have been fighting. He never got his just due.

The most overrated boxer was Lamar Clark. As a heavyweight out of Utah in the late 50’s, he was knocking out everyone in sight. He was a stablemate of middleweight champion Gene Fullmer. Lamar had about 30 KOs in a row; in fact, on one show in late 1958, he KOd six opponents in one night. Because of his punching power, size, and the region he came from, Lamar was being hailed as the second coming of Jack Dempsey. Finally in early 1960, Lamar was matched with tough fringe contender Bartolo Soni. After going all out for a KO and flooring Soni, Clark faded and was stopped on his feet late in the fight. In 1961 Clark was KOd in two rounds by an upcoming Cassius Clay but not before staggering Clay with an overhand right in the first round. Lamar made some noise, but never lived up to the hype.

JEFFREY FREEMAN (aka Boxing Digest) – TSS New England correspondent: Olympian Teófilo Stevenson was grossly overrated by a left-leaning U.S. media that shamelessly promoted him over his professional American counterparts with little or nothing to go on. “Stevenson would’ve beaten Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes.” No, he would not have. Better than being embarrassed like Jorge Luis Gonzalez against Riddick Bowe, Stevenson is now the undefeated heavyweight champion of many imaginations. We found out exactly what happens when Cuba sends their best. Does Rigo ring a bell? Yuriorkis Gamboa or bust? Maybe Odlanier Solis and Luis Ortiz should have never turned pro and just stayed amateur.

Liverpool’s Tony “Bomber” Bellew is the most underrated active fighter out there. He’ll get beat by anybody half decent they say. Really? Bellew is a light heavyweight who won a cruiserweight world title and remains undefeated (2-0 with two TKOs of David Haye) at heavyweight where his biggest dreams might yet come true. If Bellew fights comebacking clown Tyson Fury, my money is on the good little man who takes his career more seriously. If Bellew goes back down to cruiserweight for a shot at Oleksandr Usyk, don’t be too shocked if Bellew emerges with the undisputed cruiserweight championships or a hell of a good story to tell in the pubs someday.

CLARENCE GEORGE – boxing writer and historian: Plenty of candidates on both sides of the aisle, but Ingemar Johansson stands out among the underrated. His performances against Eddie Machen and Floyd Patterson were very impressive, and he had a magnificent right hand — “He left it perched on the side of his chin like a pigeon on a cornice,” wrote A. J. Liebling, “depending on it to take flight when its moment came.” Although not one of the giants, he nevertheless deserves greater appreciation. That’s on the one hand. On the other, Keith Thurman’s reputation is mystifying. His inactivity alone is cause for re-evaluation. His last three fights took place in July 2015, June 2016, and, most “recently,” in March 2017. Elaine Benes would not deem him at all “sponge-worthy.”

LEE GROVES – author, writer and CompuBox wizard:  Underrated — Gene Tunney: Only one loss and one draw in nearly 80 fights, and that loss (to all-time pound-for-pound great Harry Greb, no less) was avenged several times over. Incredibly intelligent inside and outside the ring, Tunney also possessed enough grit and resourcefulness to survive a horrific beating and bloodletting at Greb’s hands and to fend off (and later knock down) a rampaging Jack Dempsey in their rematch. Yes, his time as heavyweight champion was limited to two fights, but he made the most of his opportunities, and before he dethroned Dempsey he was long considered one of the world’s best light heavyweights. “The Fighting Marine” was a truly underrated — and under-appreciated — fighter.

Overrated — Ingemar Johansson: My criterion for this category may be a bit different than most. To me, Johansson is overrated because he was elected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame by a majority of voters in 2002 despite going 1-2 in championship fights (where the strongest cases for induction are created), and, in both losses, he was knocked out by the man he dethroned. Champions, especially heavyweights since that division is so deeply historic, normally have a pretty high bar to clear in order to be considered (much less inducted), but, apparently, his one magical night against Patterson — and it was indeed magical — was enough in itself to merit induction in enough eyes.

HENRY HASCUP – historian; President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: Underrated -Luis Manuel Rodriguez. Most people point to his loses to Emile Griffith but they fought four times and any one of those fights could have been scored the other way. He beat some of the best fighters from welterweight to light heavyweight. He is also one of ONLY two fighters in history who, after fighting 100 pro bouts, held a win over every opponent he had met in a pro ring.

Overrated is much harder as I never like to downgrade anyone that ever stepped into the squared circle.

DANNY HOWARD – boxing writer: Underrated? Michael Moorer. Was a dominant light heavyweight champ before becoming the second 175lb champ to win a belt at heavyweight and the first southpaw heavyweight champ ever. He was a top 5 heavy in the 90s in a deep era.

Overrated? Joe Calzaghe. Played it safe and his best win was against a never-was in Jeff Lacy.

JEFF JOWETTlongtime boxing scribe: Underrated: Georgie Benton. What boxing should be all about. A master technician who could stand toe-to-toe without being hit with a solid punch while getting enough leverage to deal out punishing blows in return, as opposed to defensive boxers who circle the ring on their toes, cut down on actual combat time and lack power. This was the sport at its best, a balance between defense and offense that made for exciting fights without having just two opponents blasting away on each other’s heads. Because of the economics and politics of boxing, there was a generation of post-war African-American master boxers who didn’t have a level playing field, Benton among them. Stevie Farhood once wrote an article in Kayo magazine about the 12 best boxers never to get a title shot, and ten of them were African-Americans, mostly post-war but before this writer’s time. So, my personal pick would be Georgie Benton.

Overrated: Barry McGuigan. Sorry about this; he really just represents a whole class of manufactured title holders since the devolution of the very meaning of “champion”, and so could be easily interchanged with a whole host of boxers with similar careers; meteoric rise and precipitous fall from grace, followed by little of note. He lost decisively while at the pinnacle, then instead of immediately launching a campaign to regain the title and recoup his reputation, stayed out for two critical years (I don’t know why; probably contracts), won three decent contests and then got knocked out, never fighting again. OK, so what’s so terrible about this? A good career, yes, and deserving of recognition in its own right. But he’s in the International Boxing Hall of Fame!!! This just isn’t my idea of a genuine HOF career; hence, overrated.

STUART KIRSCHENBAUM – Boxing Commissioner Emeritus, State of Michigan: I rate Rocky Marciano as the most overrated boxer of all time. Before I get in trouble with the American Italian Anti-Defamation League, I base my opinion on my years of experience approving boxing matches as a Commissioner. Let me dissect Rocky’s iconic 49-0 unbeaten heavyweight record.  In his first 15 fights only one opponent had more than nine fights. In his next 34 fights his opponents had collectively 471 loses. His wins were over aging boxers on their way down the ladder as Rocky climbed over them to the top.

I rate Charley Burley as the most underrated boxer of all time. Charley never had a chance to fight for a world championship. During his career he defeated future world champions Fritzie Zivic, Billy Soose and Archie Moore. He won 84 of his 98 professional fights without ever being stopped. My late friend Allen Rosenfeld wrote the book “Charley Burley, The Life and Hard Times of an Uncrowned Champion”. The book is over 600 pages…a biblical treatise supporting my choice.

BRUCE KIELTY- boxing matchmaker, manager, and historian: I rate Wesley Ramey, master boxer, as one of the most underrated. He was too good for his own good and was not a major ticket seller (due to his slick style instead of blood and guts) so promoters did not have an incentive to give him a title shot. Heck, if respected boxing historian Hank Kaplan didn’t cite Ramey’s credentials during his own (Kaplan’s) IBHOF induction speech, Ramey might not have ever entered the HOF himself.

Thanks to all the contributors and especially Jim Lampley who took time out from his busy schedule to write an in-depth response to our survey questions. Lampley’s provocative entry opens Part Two arriving shortly. Stay tuned.

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A native of Chicago, Ted resides in the White Mountain area of Northern New Hampshire with his wife Holly and dog Kater from which he manages a number of private investments. He has closely and passionately followed boxing for over 60 years and has written three related books including the popular “Boxing is my Sanctuary.” He also has written a true crime book titled “Shattered.” Ted has written for many different on-line boxing sites and publications and enjoys a strong international following. An elector for inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF), he is a member of Ring 4 (New England) and its Boxing Hall of Fame and also is a member of Ring 10 (New York). Sares is also one of the oldest active powerlifters and strongman competitors in the world. He is currently the four- time EPF Grand Master Nationals Champion.

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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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experienced opponent

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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