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WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Wylie Dissects Mayweather and Canelo’s Game, Part 1

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Floyd Mayweather is generally regarded as the best fighter in boxing today. Despite being almost 37 years-old, he has yet to show any conclusive signs that may point to his decline. That his record has remained unblemished in spite of a 17 year-long professional boxing career that has seen him rise through five separate weight classes is really quite astonishing. While his many critics will highlight the fact that he has, on more than one occasion, managed to avoid some of the more risky challenges that were out there for him, only an all-time great could have faced the opposition Mayweather has without ever tasting defeat.

And so, ahead of Saturday’s clash with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, I will attempt to shed light on some of the nuances of perhaps the most well-rounded pugilist on the planet. In addition, I will also be taking a brief look at Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and will be highlighting some of the ways in which he could potentially take advantage of some of Mayweather’s technical intricacies.

Trying to find imperfections in a fighter who boasts a perfect fighting record is no easy task. All fighters, however, have a tendency to fall into certain habitual patterns—some good, some bad—that can be exploited.

Because no fighter is perfect—everyone makes mistakes from time to time—habits are the smartest aspect of a fighter’s game to analyze and try and take advantage of.

Habits are formed in the gym, where the average fighter will spend hundreds of hours honing their skills.

Floyd Mayweather is not your average fighter.

It is no secret that Mayweather quite literally grew up in a boxing gym; his craft and ring savvy mirror that: according to CompuBox, Mayweather, with a plus/minus rating of +24 (that’s the difference between a fighter’s overall connect rate and that of his opponents), is the finest exponent of the-hit-and-don’t-get-hit philosophy in the entire sport. His opponent on September 14th is ranked number two on that list with a plus/minus rating of +18.

Nevertheless, Mayweather is no different from any other fighter in that the very same gym-sharpened techniques can be seen being used in almost every single one of his fights. It is while performing these techniques that a fighter (even a seemingly flawless one like Floyd) may present the opponent with openings on a somewhat predictable level.

We’ve got an awful lot to get through between now and the end of this analysis, so without further ado, let’s now take a look at some of Mayweather’s tendencies and signature techniques.


Roughhousing tactics

Despite being regularly touted as the finest “pure” boxer on the planet, much of Mayweather’s success in the ring can be attributed towards how he controls his opponents when he isn’t throwing punches.

Similarly to Bernard Hopkins, Mayweather is not afraid to manipulate the rules, often operating just inside the legal boundaries—and even beyond them—but always completely unawares to the official, of course.

One of Mayweather’s little tricks on the inside is to raise his lead arm and push his elbow or forearm into the opponent’s chest (or into their head or neck), causing them to try and hold on or turn to the official in the hope that he calls for a break or issues Floyd a warning.

This can be seen throughout his fights with Shane Mosley and Ricky Hatton.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 1Mosley looks to close the distance on Mayweather…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 2.but ends up running head-first into Floyd’s lead elbow.     

It’s not just when the opponent is on the attack that Floyd will employ these tactics either; Mayweather will often initiate an attack with a straight right hand, and will then look to immediately smother the opponent’s counter or clinch attempts. If it’s the latter, once his elbow is wedged firmly up against the opponent’s chest or neck, Floyd will push off and continue punching as they try to hold. Using his non-punching hand, elbow or forearm to pin the opponent in place while he’s punching with his free hand, Mayweather will hold, punch, maneuver, and then punch again, giving the opponent little option but to try and cover up or hold on.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 3Mayweather closes in on Mosley.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 4Mosley slips outside of Mayweather’s straight right.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 5Mosley’s clinch attempt is thwarted by Mayweather’s right forearm.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 6Mayweather pushes Mosley off and immediately nails him with a left hook…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 7...followed by a right hand.

Mayweather’s intermitting hold-and-punch style of fighting makes it very difficult for the opponent to forecast and defend against.

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A quick look at the Ricky Hatton fight shows just how effective (and sneaky) Mayweather can be on the inside when employing these holding tactics.

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Body jab

Yet another staple of Mayweather’s game is the undervalued body jab. Although he doesn’t regularly invest to the body—a la Joe Frazier—Floyd will target the body with his jab—a la Ali—to probe and open up targets for further attacks. Once the opponent begins lowering their guard to defend against his body jab, Floyd will shift his attack upstairs.

Mayweather used the body jab quite magnificently against Ricky Hatton (on display in the previous video) and Diego Corrales—changing levels for what both men assumed would be a body jab before catching them stepping in with a left hook or straight right up top.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 8Mayweather distracts Corrales by showing him a raised lead hand (blinding jab).

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 9Mayweather drops low and sinks a jab deep into the pit of Corrales’ stomach.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 10Mayweather adjusts his feet to re-establish his range.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 11Mayweather’s feint causes Corrales to hunch over and lower his guard in anticipation of the body jab. 

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 12Mayweather lands a lead hook to the head.

Although some trainers will discourage their fighter from throwing a jab to the body because of the increased vulnerability to counters, it is an excellent way to condition the opponent into adjusting their guard to compensate (sometimes without them even realizing) so that further openings may be created and exploited.

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Fade Counter

“I make the enemy see my strengths as weaknesses and my weaknesses as strengths, while I cause his strengths to become weaknesses and discover where he is not strong”.

                       —Ho Yen-hsi

Similar to how one may set a trap in order to catch a mouse, one of Floyd’s go-to moves is his fade/pull counter, which he uses to draw out a predictable attack from the opponent that he can then counter.

Standing just outside the pocket and often with his gloves lowered and slightly apart, Mayweather baits the opponent into leading with a jab, where he will then lean back and to his left (similar to an inside slip if not for the difference in weight transfer) and land a straight right. It may seem fairly obvious when Mayweather is plotting this counter attack—he raises the heel of his back foot and shifts his weight over on to his front leg—yet his opponents, snake-charmed by his “vulnerable” glove position and “exposed” head, always seem to give into temptation and lead off in a predictable way.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 13Mayweather leans forward, shifting his weight onto his front foot, gloves slightly apart, looking to draw a lead from Mosley.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 14Taking the bait, Mosley overcommits and ends up over-reaching with his jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 15Mayweather counters with a straight right.

By offering false targets, Mayweather—like all of the great counterpunching technicians—can funnel his opponent’s options and draw out the very attack that he intends to counter.


Half Guard Defense

Mayweather is not only one of the most fluid movers in boxing, but when he decides to plant his feet and stand his ground, he is also one of the very best pocket fighters in the sport too, thanks, in no small part, to his half guard/shoulder roll/Philly Shell defense.

Although it is not something we haven’t seen before, Mayweather’s effectiveness with the half guard defense, where jabs and hooks are parried or blocked with the rear hand and the lead shoulder is turned in to divert and diffuse any right-handed attacks, has earned him the reputation as one the greatest defensive savants of this or any era.

Using an open right glove to parry the jab, Mayweather uses his lead shoulder almost exclusively for deviating the (orthodox) opponent’s right hand off target so he can come back with counter rights.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 16Oscar De La Hoya forces Mayweather to the ropes.           

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 17Mayweather parries Oscar’s jab with his rear glove.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 18Mayweather rolls with Oscar’s right hand…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 19and comes back with a right hand.

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Mayweather’s rolling of the lead shoulder to protect his jawline does two things: 1) it serves its main purpose (which is to defend) by deflecting the right hand off of the lead shoulder, 2) it spring-loads Mayweather’s hips and places him at a more desirable angle to come back with right hand counters.

Although Floyd is primarily a defensive fighter, he most certainly cannot be accused of being passive in the ring. Whenever an opponent is made to miss, he nearly always makes them pay tenfold.

Another variation of Floyd’s rolling and countering is when a right hand is thrown at him from range; Floyd will use his lead elbow or forearm to spike the opponent’s extended right arm (rather than his shoulder) to steer them toward his right hand.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 20Mayweather attempts to draw a lead from Baldomir by offering him a tempting target.  

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 21Baldomir tries his luck by throwing a right hand aimed toward Mayweather’s “unprotected” left flank, but Floyd deflects the blow off target using his left forearm…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 22and counters with a short right hand.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 23Floyd then immediately weaves out (to his right) to avoid Baldomir’s counter.

Against Carlos Baldomir, Floyd knew that by countering with his right hand, his right flank would immediately open up and become a potential target. By rolling under and out to his right, Floyd managed to evade his opponent’s most likely response after throwing a right hand; a left hook aimed toward his unprotected right flank.

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Closing the Doors on the Right Lead

A boxer’s job is not complete until they have “closed the door” after finishing an attack, either by jabbing their way out, or angling out. One of the safest exits to round off an attack with—attention Amir Khan, this concerns you– is to duck under and out to the left or right depending on which direction one’s last punch came from. For example, after a right hand, one should roll underneath and out to the right (to avoid the opponent’s likely counter left), and after throwing a left hook, one should roll under and out to the left (to avoid the opponent’s right hand).

Thrown straight from the guard and with very little that may signal to its arrival, Floyd executes his right hand lead better than anyone else in the sport—often forcing the opponent to step to him where he will catch them in-between steps on what is known as the half-beat, before taking some kind of pre-emptive measure against the most common reaction.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 24

Mayweather closes in on southpaws Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero respectively.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 25

Mayweather distracts with a “blinding jab”.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 27

Mayweather throws a right hand lead…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 28

and immediately ducks underneath and out to his right to avoid the southpaw left.

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Mayweather epitomizes what good boxing is all about. To compete at the highest level, boxing is about doing what is absolutely necessary in order to minimize one’s openings while taking advantage of the opponent’s.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 29Moving in behind a high guard, Floyd presses the attack…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 30and connects with a straight right.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 31Anticipating a left hook counter, Mayweather ducks underneath…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 32and rolls out to his right.

As you can see, Mayweather’s brilliance is not a result of his speed, reflexes or any other physical attribute; Mayweather is brilliant purely because of his timing, control of distance and unrivalled ring intelligence.

Needless to say, as of yet, there is no definitive blueprint on how to beat Floyd Mayweather. As slick as he is, however, Mayweather is certainly not without a stylistic flaw or two.

Let’s now take a look at some of the ways in which one (specifically Canelo) could possibly take advantage of some of Mayweather’s tendencies.


Deception

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when we are far away, we must make him believe we are near”           

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In many fields of endeavor, people rely on deception to help them reach their targets. In sports, such as basketball and football, players will fake a pass in one direction to throw off opposing players only to execute the actual intended play in another.

In boxing, the success or failure of such deceptive ploys depends upon the ability of the deceiver to lull the opponent into believing and acting upon a false action.

Early in the second round, Shane Mosley used a body jab to lure Mayweather’s rear hand away from his guard. As a result, Mosley was able to connect with a hard right cross that—if not for Mayweather’s defensive instincts that saw him clamping down on Mosley’s right arm immediately afterwards—would have almost certainly led to his demise.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 33Mayweather is ready to defend inside his half guard defensive posture.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 34Mayweather lowers his rear hand to parry Mosley’s low jab…     

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 35but fails to react to the subsequent right hand in time.

A strategy that relies solely on a direct approach will soon result in a predictable attack. By targeting the body first and diverting Mayweather’s attention away from the intended target, Mosley was able to take advantage of a momentary lapse in Mayweather’s defensive structure.

Non-Rhythmic Combinations

Performed well, the half guard defense can be a tough nut to crack. However, like all guards, no one guard is impenetrable as every single one of them leaves an opening somewhere.

As we know, defensive-minded counterpunchers like Floyd love to set traps and draw the opponent in. Since Mayweather is very calculating, it is possible to confuse him by simply not giving him what he expects. Establishing a pattern and then abruptly breaking away from it can accomplish this as it is very difficult to counter effectively unless there is a pattern to predict. In other words, if they are not attacked in a predictable way, counterpunchers cannot mount a reliable counter-strategy.

For so long now, Mayweather has been faced with opponents who all shared the same game plan; pressure him, close the distance, and try to overwhelm him with volume on the inside.

Consider Mayweather’s bout with Philip N’Dou. Every time N’dou found Mayweather up on the ropes, he threw nothing but predictable left-right-left-right combinations that were easy for Mayweather to time and roll with.

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http://youtu.be/oVxtbjVWxAk

The half guard defense is the perfect foil for this brand of generic attack. Even the mercurial Juan Manuel Marquez, a stunningly beautiful combination puncher at his best, fell into the same trap against Floyd by failing to vary the rhythm and sequence of his combinations.

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http://youtu.be/FCiVNJ60RyA

Back in June, Paulie Malignaggi entered his fight with Adrien Broner a massive underdog. Because of an intelligent game plan, the fight ended up being far more competitive than many had anticipated and while Broner certainly did enough to earn himself a larger portion of the rounds based on him landing the cleaner and more effective punches, Malignaggi was successful where others have failed recently in exposing some of Broner’s stylistic limitations and, to some extent, those of the half guard defense.

As opposed to route one sluggers in Vicente Escobedo and Antonio DeMarco, Paulie employed lots of lateral movement, didn’t always try to take Broner’s head off with one shot, and more importantly, he threw his combinations against the grain.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 36Paulie throws a low jab which forces Broner to reach low to parry it.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 37Instead of following up with a predictable right, Malignaggi doubles up on his left with a lead hook to the body.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 38Paulie then breaks up the combination by taking a half step back…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 39feints a jab (drawing out Broner’s rear hand parry)

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 40and lands a solid left to the head.

Unlike Philip N’dou and Juan Manuel Marquez when they were confronted with a similar defensive construct, Paulie varied his combinations and threw them discordantly. By doubling and even tripling up on the same hand mid-combination, Paulie made it difficult for Broner to block and roll with his punches.

The true essence of combination punching is not to do all the damage with the initial blow, but to create an opening for a more damaging final one (through manipulating the opponent’s guard by throwing several lesser ones) somewhere down the line. While it is important that each punch is thrown in a rhythmic, free-flowing manner (Marquez does this better than anyone), it is equally important to vary the rhythm and targets.

In other words, rather than simply launch each combination in a uniform pattern (left-right-left-right), it is often best to change the speed of the individual punches and the length of pauses between them (left-left…..left-right). This is what Paulie did brilliantly against Broner (notice that Paulie’s entire combination in the above stills was thrown entirely off his lead hand).

During their fight, Canelo, a brilliant rhythmic and non-rhythmic combination puncher, managed to floor recent opponent Josesito Lopez with a quite vicious, but in no way reckless attack. The key to the whole combination was Canelo’s doubling up on his lead hand and sudden change in tempo.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 41Canelo forces Lopez to the ropes.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 42Canelo throws a blinding jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 43Instead of coming back with a predictable right cross, Canelo moves in behind yet another jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 44Canelo angles to his left off a right uppercut.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 45From a dominant angle, Canelo plants a left hook deep into the floating ribs of Lopez.

If one always maintains a consistent pattern of timing during a combination, the opponent can easily identify and time each blow. However, if one can break up the rhythm and sequence of the combination by slowing down and speeding up one’s punches, as well as by lengthening and shortening the pauses between them, the combination will become a lot more difficult for the opponent to time and, in Mayweather’s case, roll with.

 

Hooking off the Jab

“A feint is an outright lie. You make believe you’re going to hit your opponent in one place, he covers the spot and your punch lands on the other side. A left hook off the jab is a classy lie. You’re converting an I into an L. Making openings is starting a conversation with a guy, so another guy (your other hand) can come and hit him with a baseball bat”.   

—Jose Torres, former light-heavyweight champion of the world.    

Although it is a highly effective way to block the jab and set up counterpunching opportunities, boxers who tend to reach out too far to parry the opponent’s jab (as Mayweather did against Mosley) can be susceptible to hooks immediately following the jab (hooking off the jab). The aim of this technique is to use the jab to draw the opponent’s rear hand out and set him up for a left hook around the guard.

Joe Louis was an absolute master of this technique.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 46

Louis’ subtle pressure forces his opponent to the ropes.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 47

Louis throws a jab to lure the opponent’s rear hand away from his guard…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 48and lands a crushing left hook.

Hooking off the jab is a lost art in modern boxing and is rarely seen nowadays, yet Canelo seems to have perfected the technique and is one of the very few who looks to implement it in the heat of battle.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 49Canelo cuts the ring off on Matthew Hatton.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 50Hatton reaches out to parry Canelo’s jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 51Canelo changes the trajectory and lands a left hook around the guard to Hatton’s newly exposed head.

 

Feint to Angling off Left Hook

During his fight with James Toney back in 1994, Roy Jones managed to exploit a major weakness in Toney’s defensive armor. Quite often, when an opponent is looking to close the distance, the half guard defense calls for the exponent to shift one’s weight over onto the back foot, thus making the head a more elusive target. Jones seemed to find the half guard defense’s sweet spot repeatedly against Toney; preceded by a feint, Jones would angle to his right (Toney’s left) and throw a left hook before sliding out behind Toney’s lead side, making it all but impossible for Toney to come back with counter rights.

Roy Jones’ early knockdown of James Toney illustrated this perfectly.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 52Jones is looking to capitalize on Toney’s retaliatory clowning.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 53Reacting to Jones’ feint, Toney immediately leans back.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 54With Toney’s balance severely compromised, Jones angles toward Toney’s lead side and lands a left hook.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 55Jones now has Toney’s back and has eliminated Toney’s ability to throw an effective counter.

Here is the very same technique performed again.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 56Jones throws a feint at Toney.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 57Jones lands a left hook as Toney, reacting to the feint, dips to his right (Jones’ left).

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 58Placing his rear glove on Toney’s back, Jones secures a dominant angle by skipping out to his right, where he lands yet another left hook.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 59By the time Toney turns and resets, Jones has already exited on a different line to the one on which he entered.

So would the same kind of attack that neutralized James Toney’s half guard defense work just as well against the finest defender in the modern game for someone who doesn’t quite have the same kind of foot speed that Jones possessed during his prime?

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 60Cotto closes in on Mayweather.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 62Cotto feints with a level change.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 63Cotto slides his right foot up and out to his right, and lands a left hook on Floyd, who is leaning back and off balance.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 64Cotto places his rear hand on Mayweather’s back and moves to his blindside. From here, Cotto can continue punching or exit on a different line.

Miguel Cotto doesn’t have nearly half the amount of foot speed that Roy Jones did during his heyday, yet that doesn’t matter; by first feinting, Miguel was able to gain time and draw out a predictable response from Mayweather—leaning back and bending slightly to his right—just as Jones was able to with Toney. Consequently, this kind of attack nullifies the defender’s ability to come back with right hands; the go-to counter from out of the half guard defense.

As we’ve previously discussed, Floyd will lower his lead arm to bait the opponent into throwing their right so he can then roll and counter with his own (for a reminder, look at the opening photo in the Baldomir sequence).

During his fight with Kermit Cintron, Canelo would feint a right hand in order to set up his left hook. Reacting to the feint, Cintron would then bend over at the waist and to his right (as Floyd, Broner and Toney do), only to inadvertently roll directly into Canelo’s incoming left.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 65Canelo closes the distance behind a jab.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 66Canelo feints a right hand, forcing Cintron to transfer his weight onto his back foot.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 67Canelo angles to his right slightly and lands a left hook to the chin of Cintron, who is now leaning over to avoid Canelo’s “right hand”.

 

Elusive Punching

When Floyd lets his hands go, he leaves openings just like everyone else. It is no coincidence, then, that on three of the four occasions where Floyd has been in the most trouble inside a boxing ring, he was tagged while being on the offensive.

Against Chop Chop Corley…

 

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 69and Shane Mosley.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 70

As the above images clearly illustrate, Floyd can be hit cleanly while he is punching.

Although it is rarely mentioned when discussing Canelo’s strong points, Canelo is actually fairly difficult to hit cleanly during exchanges aimed toward his center because of the way he moves his head and upper body as he throws his punches. This is especially true when Canelo is throwing his overhand right (cross counter over the top of an opponent’s jab).

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 71Alvarez closes in on Cintron.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 72Alvarez slips inside Cintron’s jab…

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 73...and lands a hard right hand over the top.

Not only does Alvarez take his head off line, he also changes the elevation of his entire body too. Because of this, Canelo’s opponents soon find out that he is a lot more elusive than they had previously anticipated.

Here’s another example of Canelo’s elusiveness while he is punching.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 74Alvarez and Trout are both looking to engage.

Floyd Mayweather 10092013 75By slipping outside, Alvarez forces Trout’s jab to sail past his right shoulder and connects with a straight right hand, sending Trout to the canvas.

It is by observing a fighter’s habits (that can then be taken and used against them) that we soon realize—regardless of what any pound-for-pound list may tell us—that every single fighter is capable of losing a fight through meticulous preparation and strategic thinking.

If Floyd were to lose to Canelo on Saturday, it wouldn’t be because of Canelo’s physical strength, heart, desire or even a lucky punch—it would be because of the young man’s craft and because of a superior strategy.

The concluding part of this two part piece will follow on TSS soon.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 281: The Devin and Ryan Show

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Over the years bouts between old foes such as Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia tend to be surprising.

Yes, both are only 25 but have known each other for many years.

When undisputed super lightweight champion Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) steps into the prize ring at Barclays Center to meet challenger Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday, April 20, fans will be witnessing the continuation of a feud that began more than a decade ago.

And though the champion is a heavy favorite, familiarity is Garcia’s best weapon heading into their fight on the Golden Boy Promotions card that will be shown on PPV.COM with Jim Lampley and friends. DAZN pay-per-view is also streaming the card.

In many ways Haney and Garcia have ventured down the same path. From amateur sensations to fighting in Mexico while teens to asking for the biggest challenges available.

“Whichever version of Ryan shows up on April 20, I will be ready for him. Ryan Garcia is just another opponent to me,” said Haney who holds the WBC super lightweight title after his win over Regis Prograis.

The first time I saw Haney as a pro he battled the dangerous Mexican contender Juan Carlos Burgos at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. It was an impressive performance against a fighter who fought three times for a world title.

Haney was 19 at the time.

My first look at Garcia as a pro was in his first bout in the U.S. when he met Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Cruz at the Exchange in downtown Los Angeles. The Boricua looked at Garcia and tried intimidating him with stares, taunts and the usual patter. During the fight both swung and missed until the second round when Garcia zeroed in and took him out.

Garcia had just turned 18, the legal age to fight in California.

Both fighters did not have the Olympics credentials that lead to fame. But their talent has allowed them to fight through the dense smoke that is professional boxing.

Haney has defeated numerous world champions such as Prograis, Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos Jr., while Garcia has stopped champions Javier Fortuna and Luke Campbell.

As amateurs, Garcia and Haney battled six times with each winning three.

“They know each other very well,” said Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions. “Ryan is going to beat Devin Haney.”

Haney has a buttery-smooth style with one of the best jabs in boxing. He’s very adept at keeping distance and not allowing anyone to fight him inside. His reflexes are outstanding, yet he seldom fights inside. That’s his weakness.

Garcia fights tall and has superb hand speed and a lightning quick left hook. Though his defense lacks tightness his ability to rip off three-punch combinations in a blink of an eye pauses opponents from bullying their way inside.

“These guys always just look at me and look at me like I don’t know how to box,” said Garcia on social media. “Why was I one of the best fighters in the amateurs. Why was I a 15-time National champion…why did I beat everyone I came across.”

Haney is a strong favorite by oddsmakers to defeat Garcia. But you can never tell when it comes to fighters that know each other well and are athletically gifted.

When Sergio Mora challenged Vernon Forrest he was a big underdog. When Tim Bradley fought Manny Pacquiao the first time, he was also the underdog. And when Andy Ruiz met Anthony Joshua few gave him a chance.

Haney and Garcia have history in the ring. It should be an interesting battle.

PPV.COM

Jim Lampley will be leading the broadcast on PPV.COM for the Haney-Garcia card at Barclays and texting with fans on the card live. He will be accompanied by journalists Lance Pugmire, Dan Conobbio and former champion Chris Algieri.

The PPV.COM broadcast begins at 5 p.m. PT. and is available in Canada and the USA.

Other News

MMA stars Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal will be holding a media day event on Friday, April 19, at NOVO at L.A. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Diaz and Masvidal will be boxing against each other in a grudge match on June 1 at the KIA Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The two MMA stars met five years at UFC 244 with Masvidal winning by TKO over Diaz due to cuts.

This is a grudge match, but under boxing rules.

Fight card in Commerce, Calif.

360 Promotions returns to Commerce Casino on Saturday April 20 with undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval leading the charge.

Sandoval (12-0) faces Angel Rebollar (8-3) in the main event that will be shown live on UFC Fight Pass. Also on the card are two female events including hot prospect Lupe Medina (5-0) versus Sabrina Persona (3-1) in a minimumweight clash.

Doors open at 4 p.m.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

 

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Heavyweight Merry-Go-Round

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Boxing Odds and Ends: The Heavyweight Merry-Go-Round

There were few surprises when co-promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren and their benefactor HE Turki Alalshikh held a press conference in London this past Monday to unveil the undercard for the Beterbiev-Bivol show at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1. Most of the match-ups had already been leaked.

For die-hard boxing fans, Beterbiev-Bivol is such an enticing fight that it really doesn’t need an attractive undercard. Two undefeated light heavyweights will meet with all four relevant belts on the line in a contest where the oddsmakers straddled the fence. It’s a genuine “pick-‘em” fight based on the only barometer that matters, the prevailing odds.

But Beterbiev-Bivol has been noosed to a splendid undercard, a striking contrast to Saturday’s Haney-Garcia $69.99 (U.S.) pay-per-view in Brooklyn, an event where the undercard, in the words of pseudonymous boxing writer Chris Williams, is an absolute dumpster fire.

The two heavyweight fights that will bleed into Beterbiev-Bivol, Hrgovic vs. Dubois and Wilder vs. Zhang, would have been stand-alone main events before the incursion of Saudi money.

Hrgovic-Dubois

Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 13 KOs) and Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KOs) fought on the same card in Riyadh this past December. Hrgovic, the Croatian, was fed a softie in the form of Australia’s Mark De Mori who he dismissed in the opening round. Dubois, a Londoner, rebounded from his loss to Oleksandr Usyk with a 10th-round stoppage of corpulent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.

There’s an outside chance that Hrgovic vs. Dubois may be sanctioned by the IBF for the world heavyweight title.

The May 18 showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury has a rematch clause. The IBF is next in line in the rotation system for a unified heavyweight champion and the organization has made it plain that the winner of Usyk-Fury must fulfill his IBF mandatory before an intervening bout.

The best guess is that the Usyk-Fury winner will relinquish the IBF belt. If so, Hrgovic and Dubois may fight for the vacant title although a more likely scenario is that the organization will keep the title vacant so that the winner can fight Anthony Joshua.

Wilder-Zhang

The match between Deontay Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) and Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KOs) is a true crossroads fight as both Wilder, 38, and Zhang, who turns 41 in May, are nearing the end of the road and the loser (unless it’s a close and entertaining fight) will be relegated to the rank of a has-been. In fact, Wilder has hinted that this may be his final rodeo.

Both are coming off a loss to Joseph Parker.

Wilder last fought on the card that included Hrgovic and Dubois and was roundly out-pointed by a man he was expected to beat. It’s a quick turnaround for Zhang who opposed Parker on March 8 and lost a majority decision.

Other Fights

Either of two other fights may steal the show on the June 1 event.

Raymond Ford (15-0-1, 8 KOs) meets Nick Ball (19-0-1, 11 KOs) in a 12-round featherweight contest. New Jersey’s Ford will be defending the WBA world title he won with a come-from-behind, 12th-round stoppage of Otabek Kholmatov in an early contender for Fight of the Year. Liverpool’s “Wrecking” Ball, a relentless five-foot-two sparkplug, had to settle for a draw in his title fight with Rey Vargas despite winning the late rounds and scoring two knockdowns.

Hamzah Sheeraz (19-0, 15 KOs) meets fellow unbeaten Austin “Ammo” Williams (16-0, 11 KOs) in a 12-round middleweight match. East London’s Sheeraz, the son of a former professional cricket player, is unknown in the U.S. although he trained for his recent fights at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in California. Riding a skein of 13 straight knockouts, he has a date with WBO title-holder Janibek Alimkhanuly if he can get over this hurdle.

The Forgotten Heavyweight

“Unbeaten for seven years, the man nobody wants to fight,” intoned ring announcer Michael Buffer by way of introduction. Buffer was referencing Michael Hunter who stood across the ring from his opponent Artem Suslenkov.

This scene played out this past Saturday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It was Hunter’s second fight in three weeks. On March 23, he scored a fifth-round stoppage of a 46-year-old meatball at a show in Zapopan, Mexico.

The second-generation “Bounty Hunter,” whose only defeat prior to last weekend came in a 12-rounder with Oleksandr Usyk, has been spinning his wheels since TKOing the otherwise undefeated Martin Bakole on the road in London in 2018. Two fights against hapless opponents on low-budget cards in Mexico and a couple of one-round bouts for the Las Vegas Hustle, an entry in the fledgling and largely invisible Professional Combat League, are the sum total of his activity, aside from sparring, in the last two-and-a-half years.

Hunter’s chances of getting another big-money fight took a tumble in Tashkent where he lost a unanimous decision in a dull affair to the unexceptional Suslenkov who was appearing in his first 10-round fight. The scores of the judges were not announced.

You won’t find this fight listed on boxrec. As Jake Donovan notes, the popular website will not recognize a fight conducted under the auspices of a rogue commission. (Another fight you won’t find on boxrec for the same reason is Nico Ali Walsh’s 6-round split decision over the 9-2-1 Frenchman, Noel Lafargue, in the African nation of Guinea on Dec. 16, 2023. You can find it on YouTube, but according to boxrec, boxing’s official record-keeper, it never happened.)

Anderson-Merhy Redux

The only thing missing from this past Saturday’s match in Corpus Christi, Texas, between Jared Anderson and Ryad Merhy was the ghost of Robert Valsberg.

Valsberg, aka Roger Vaisburg, was the French referee who disqualified Ingemar Johansson for not trying in his match with LA’s Ed Sanders in the finals of the heavyweight competition at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Valsberg tossed Johansson out of the ring after two rounds and Johansson was denied the silver medal. The Swede redeemed himself after turning pro, needless to say, when he demolished Floyd Patterson in the first of their three meetings.

Merhy was credited with throwing only 144 punches, landing 34, over the course of the 10 rounds. Those dismal figures yet struck many onlookers as too high. (This reporter has always insisted that the widely-quoted CompuBox numbers should be considered approximations.)

Whatever the true number, it was a disgraceful performance by Merhy who actually showed himself to have very fast hands on the few occasions when he did throw a punch. With apologies to Delfine Persoon, a spunky lightweight, U.S. boxing promoters should think twice before inviting another Belgian boxer to our shores.

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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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