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The Most Underrated and Most Overrated Boxers: Part Two of Our Survey

In this month’s survey, we asked our regular cast of noted boxing buffs to identify the fighters — active or retired, living or dead — who in their estimation were most underrated and/or most

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In this month’s survey, we asked our regular cast of noted boxing buffs to identify the fighters — active or retired, living or dead — who in their estimation were most underrated and/or most overrated. The story yielded by the survey is running in two parts with respondents listed alphabetically. Here’s Part Two.

JIM LAMPLEY- linchpin of the HBO announcing team and 2009 Hall of Fame inductee: This is another premise which is so broad and elemental that the range of possible responses is almost overwhelming. Take the underrated category: how many modern fans even know who Barney Ross was? How many are aware there is a case to be made (not by me, but by others I respect) for Harry Greb ahead of Sugar Ray Robinson as number one all-time? We could go on ad nauseum, so to make this categorical I’ll just select two ultra-recognizable relatively recent names from the most visible division.

Underrated:  This is counter-intuitive in that he got overwhelming acclaim, but I am not sure to this day enough fans and followers truly understand and appreciate what George Foreman did. To win the legitimate heavyweight crown twice, twenty years apart, as two entirely different fighters and two even more entirely different human beings, is not just one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of boxing, it is one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of competitive sports. He is not the greatest of all heavyweight kings — take your pick between Ali and Louis — but he is to me clearly the most underrated, because his awesome physicality obscures the fact he beat Michael Moorer with his mind. I can never give him too much credit for that.

Overrated: This choice actually hurts, because I regard the fighter as a dear friend, and covering him was the pedestal on which I built my boxing commentary career. But many fans think of Mike Tyson almost exclusively in images of his early career knockout string against mostly deficient opponents, and ignore what happened when he reached the point of going in against live ammunition. His best win was over a blown-up light heavyweight. His supposed colossal upset loss to Buster Douglas was actually an on-merit style loss, foreshadowed by his route-going decisions against Mitch Green, Tony Tucker, Bonecrusher Smith, and his last round knockout of Jose Ribalta. And against his Hall of Fame contemporaries Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, more style problems, zero and three, and in my view the likelihood he would never have been able to beat either one. Mike was a sensational talent but with certain limitations, and the extreme glamour of his early genesis ultimately makes him the most overrated heavyweight. Doesn’t mean I don’t love him, because I do. But only honest answers really count.

ARNE LANG – TSS editor in chief: At the risk of being branded a moron, Henry Armstrong doesn’t make my all-time Top Ten. True, he held three title belts simultaneously in an era when there were only eight weight classes. Jim Murray wrote that fighting Hammering’ Hank was like fighting a rock slide. But my goodness, he fought a lot of stiffs. During one stretch in 1939, he successfully defended his welterweight title five times in a span of 21 days. That boggles the imagination until one examines his opposition. Howard Scott, the second victim, had lost 10 of his last 11. Bobby Pacho, the fifth victim, finished his career with 70 losses. As for the most underrated, too many names jump to mind to single out just one guy.

RON LIPTON – world class boxing referee, former fighter, boxing historian, retired police officer: One of the toughest men I ever knew and sparred with many times, Jose Monon Gonzalez, came from an era where only real Lions and Tigers prowled the middleweight division. To me he was the toughest fighter to ever come out of Puerto Rico. The great boxing writer Mario Rivera also told me that. Jose was not the greatest but the roughest and most fearless fighter who fought you in the pocket all night long.  He beat Rubin Carter, Joey Archer, Florentino Fernandez, Rocky Rivero, Luis Rodriguez, Ted Wright, Cyclone Hart, Vicente Rondon, Don Fullmer and so many others. He had losses but usually went the distance trying to tear your guts out in the pocket all night long. He was like a Shawn Porter, all over you, making you fight hard or go down. He was always underrated and people who did that left the ring sadder and wiser most of the time.

Overrated? I take a pass on this one out of respect for all boxers.

PAUL MAGNO – author, writer, and boxing official in Mexico: “The Body Snatcher” Mike McCallum is vastly underrated by modern day boxing fans and even many old timers. He reached his prime at the tail end of the “Four Kings'” era and none of these guys (Leonard, Hearns, Duran, and Hagler) thought about even trying to engage the talented old-school boxer. McCallum’s phenomenal talent and immense skill were never tested against true ATG-level fighters until he was well past his prime and a division above his optimal weight– and, even then, he managed to hold his own.

As for overrated, I’ll incur the wrath of all Welsh fight fans here, but Joe Calzaghe was overrated during his career and is especially overrated now, at the cringe-worthy level, as the realities of his career fade into the past. Sure, he was a talented guy, but any honest assessment of his resume has to take note of the fact that he was, almost exclusively, hand-fed soft touches for 95 percent of his career. High-water mark wins against Mikkel Kessler, a deeply overrated Jeff Lacy, and past-their-primes Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins over the course of a 15-year, 22-world title fight career do not fit the bill of legend-level accomplishment, And, yep, I still don’t think he really beat Hopkins.

ADEYINKA MAKINDE – boxing writer, law school lecturer, author: The most overrated boxer among the elite fighters of today I’d say is Sergey Kovalev. He is formidable with good balance and heavy-hitting power. Fight him at mid-range at your peril. But his fights with Isaac Chilemba and Andre Ward exposed his shortcomings: poor stamina, non-existent inside-fighting skills and vulnerability to body shots. (Editor’s note: this was written before Kovalev’s fight with Eleider Alvarez.)

The most underrated boxer from the past I would offer as Ezzard Charles. His losses to Jersey Joe Walcott and Rocky Marciano as well as the reluctance of the public to embrace him after the end of the Joe Louis era all served to detract from his sublime boxing skills.

MARK “SCOOP” MALINOWSKI – the “biofile” man: To pick the most underrated boxers present and past is very difficult because there are so many talents who didn’t get their just due or the big super fights they earned and deserved. The ones who spring to mind for me are prime Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito who I strongly believe would have both devoured Floyd at 147 but were denied their opportunities to become superstars. The boxing establishment was set up back then to protect Floyd, who was the installed and protected “face of boxing.” I also feel Buster Douglas is underrated by history. He boxed a masterpiece vs Tyson and could have beaten just about anyone from history that night. Today, the most underrated are Terence Crawford and Gennady Golovkin. Both are all time greats but have been avoided by their top name competition. One of the flaws of boxing today is that there are many very underrated talents out there who don’t get the TV exposure and big fights they deserve.

DAVID MARTINEZ – boxing historian and boxing site manager: Most underrated is Jerry Quarry with Randy Shields a close second. Most overrated is Chuck Davey with Sean O’Grady a close second.

LARRY MERCHANT – most underrated boxer: Riddick Bowe; most overrated ring commentator: me

ERNESTO MORALES (aka GENO FEBUS) – boxing writer and former fighter:  Wow, a tough one but I have to go with Ezzard Charles. He was only a natural middleweight beefed up to light heavy because his manager knew at 160 he’d never get a break. Then he was forced to move up again for the same reasons. Could you expect Zale’s Graziano’s, Cerdan’s, LaMotta’s ,Lesnevich’s, Mills’, Maxim’s managers risking their titles vs Charles?? Or Blinky Palermo and gang for that matter?? He would’ve had to pawn the rest of his career to get his deserved opportunities!! He wasn’t a light heavy when he moved up and was never a true heavy even in his best years in that division. Greatest LH of all time without ever winning that division’s title.

J RUSSELL PELTZ – the face of boxing in Philadelphia; 2004 IBHOF inductee: I believe Rocky Marciano was the most underrated and most overrated fighter of all time. Think about that!

FREDERICK ROMANO – author and former HBO researcher: For my money the most underrated is Ezzard Charles. Forget about his run as a heavyweight. After cutting his teeth on a host of top middleweights in his early years he went on to become an all-time great 175lb fighter. Ask Archie Moore. His race, style and disposition hindered him. Even a fading Charles was able to give Marciano his toughest title defense. As for the most overrated it is so tough to say because almost always an overrated fighter eventually becomes exposed and does not maintain that status. People are starting to talk about Floyd Mayweather Jr. as if he is up there with Ali and the like. No dice. A really talented fighter in his prime and at his best weight but he has become glaringly overrated. So, I will go with Floyd.

DANA ROSENBLATT – former world middleweight champion: Most underrated is Yaqui Lopez…….hands down!

TED SARES – TSS writer: most overrated is Cecilia Braekhus, the “First Lady of Boxing.” She is a knockout waiting to happen and Layla McCarter or Amanda Serrano   will oblige her. Most underrated is a tie between Ezzard Charles and Gene Tunney. The only loss Tunney (65-1-1) suffered was to Harry Greb in the first of their five meetings and he also beat Dempsey twice. Enough said. In my view, the super skilled Ezzard Charles fought the highest level of opposition of any fighter in boxing history.

“ICEMAN” JOHN SCULLY- former boxer, trainer, commentator; he’s done it all: In my opinion Rocky Marciano is both the most underrated and the most overrated boxer in history. His detractors have him as an easy to hit guy who beat nothing but senior citizens to achieve his status in the game. His supporters have him beating everyone in history by brutal knockout, including Godzilla and King Kong. In my opinion he is somewhere in the middle. Limited to a certain degree, of course, but he possessed one of the greatest wills of all time and he got the job done 49 times in a row, most of which were by crushing knockouts.

MIKE SILVER – author, writer, historian: How many heavyweights would get up time and again after absorbing the best shots of Joe Louis and Max Baer? My vote for most underrated goes to Primo Carnera. Despite the fixed fights and phony build-up he was a gutsy hard-working fighter who eventually absorbed enough skill and technique to defeat some decent boxers. Developed a good jab and footwork. Da Preem would be in the mix of top heavyweight contenders today and a good bet to win a belt.

The most overrated boxer was Roy Jones Jr. This terrific athlete was “great” for his time but when people began ranking him on a par with Sugar Ray Robinson (one well known authority even said he was better!), I had to draw the line. Roy’s athleticism and power dazzled but it covered up mediocre boxing skills and a glass jaw. In his prime these flaws could not be exposed by a middleweight and light heavy division that lacked depth. Roy’s innate gifts would have made him a stand out in any era but he was certainly no Sugar Ray Robinson.

ALAN SWYER- documentary filmmaker, writer, and producer of “El Boxeo”: The most underrated fighter in my estimation is Ricardo “Finito” Lopez. That he is not fully appreciated owes to two factors. First, he fought primarily as a strawweight, a division that’s often overlooked. Second, with the exception of two fights (against Alex Sanchez and Zolani Petolo), he did not box in New York, with the bulk of his matches fought in Mexico and Las Vegas. However, what more needs to be said about someone who retired undefeated as both an amateur and a pro, had 51 professional wins (38 by knockout), and tied Joe Louis and Floyd Mayweather for the most consecutive title bouts without a loss.

The most overrated boxer in my estimation is Saul Alvarez. Though clearly gifted, Canelo was anointed early on more for his red hair than for his talent. Promoted shrewdly by Golden Boy, fighting big names already on the downside of their career. Still, his fight against Alfredo Angulo featured a questionable stoppage, the scorecard for his bout against Erislandy Lara was controversial, and his effort against Floyd Mayweather was lackluster. Then came Alvarez-Golovkin, in which hype superseded the action in the ring.

GARY “DIGITAL” WILLIAMS- voice of “Boxing Along the Beltway”: My most underrated boxer is Simon Brown. He accomplished a lot in his career and I think the knockout loss to Vincent Pettway may have hurt his legacy. Brown won three world titles and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history when he knocked out Terry Norris. I’ve always thought that Brown should be in the Hall of Fame.

My most overrated boxer actually is Mike Tyson. I give a lot of credit to Tyson for the excitement he brought to the sport. However, if you look objectively at his career, he was more successful with smaller heavyweights. When he went up against tall heavy’s like James “Bonecrusher” Smith and Lennox Lewis, he really did not perform well. Yes, he had a lot of issues outside the ring but he is not in my all-time greatest heavyweight list.

PETER WOOD – author, writer, and former fighter: The most underrated fighter is…Michael Spinks. Unfortunately, “The Spinks Jinx” is more remembered for his first-round KO loss to Mike Tyson and his unwarranted win over Larry Holmes. However, his ring achievements are too often overlooked. His ring record is almost perfect at 31-1…The Ring magazine named Spinks “the third greatest light heavyweight of all time” in 2002…He had a record of 14-1 (9 KO) in world title fights…He was 7-1 against former world titlists…He defeated Murray Sutherland (twice), Marvin Johnson, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Larry Holmes (twice).

The most overrated fighter is…Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He’s too slow-of-foot, too juiced-up, and too protected.

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters in the world and is currently competing on the New England circuit. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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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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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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