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Roman Gonzalez: The New Pound-for-Pound King

Matt McGrain

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Back when Roman Gonzalez was a twenty-two year old minimumweight with a slate of 25-0 rather than a twenty-eight year old flyweight with a slate of 43-0, I wrote an article speculating as to whether or not Roman Gonzalez would ever assume the dizzy heights of the pound-for-pound #1 slot.

“I think he can,” I wrote in conclusion, “time and talent are on his side.”

Upon the retirement of Floyd Mayweather in the wake of his anaemic victory over the under-qualified Andre Berto, Ring Magazine elevated Gonzalez to the #1 spot; after taking a single week to see if Floyd Mayweather would reverse his decision, TBRB (of which I am a member) followed suit. Mayweather was such a dominant and long-lived #1 that his withdrawal from the p4p list was always going to cause a shuffling of the pound-for-pound pack and the subjective nature of such an exercise means that no new ascendant to the throne was going to be universally agreed upon overnight, but the early votes, certainly, are in: Gonzalez is the best in the world.

The first time I ran the rule over Gonzalez he was a known quantity for all that he was one that flew beneath the radar but he was also a work in progress. In breaking down Gonzalez by category I was handicapped by Roman’s own lack of experience and in many areas I had to pose questions rather than give answers. Today, we know almost all we will know about the Nicaraguan who is at the absolute peak of his powers, has most of his major formative experiences behind him and who has several years in which to express his destructive powers to the fullest of his ability. It’s good to be Roman Gonzalez.

I’m going to revisit the categories I ran him through all those years ago. There will be very different results. Gonzalez is a monster. A machine. A killer. Any and every cliché you feel you would like to apply is valid. He is the antithesis of Floyd Mayweather; a destroyer who does not seek to hit and not be hit, but rather to hit, hit, hit.

He breaks people.

THE EARLY DAYS

“The step up in class went totally unnoticed by Roman Gonzalez.”

What most impressed me about Gonzalez in the first five year instalment of his career between 2005 and 2010 was that he deployed himself independent of the level of his opposition. Against early opponents he was as careful as he would be against world-class opposition; against world-class opposition he was as dominant and confident physically as he was against early opposition. What this meant in practical terms was that a strapholder like Yutaka Niida was dispatched with the same unruffled calm (TKO 4 2008) as a professional loser like Francisco Mezza (RTD 6, KO2, 2006). This was something of an absurdity and for all that it was artificially enhanced by the discipline he showed against the soft opposition he cut his teeth on, it still framed the pertinent question perfectly: how far can he take this?

We know the answer now: all the way to the top. His air of utter dominance may have evaporated in the face of the very best opposition but he is yet to be stretched to the extent of his ability by my eye. An often heard criticism of Floyd Mayweather was that his style and careful selection of opponents meant we never saw him reach his full potential. Gonzalez, too, may not have reached his absolute apex but it is assuredly not a matter of style. Gonzalez is there, right there with his adversary and now he has moved through 105lbs and 108lbs to 112lbs, he enjoys no meaningful advantages in height or reach. As for his selection of opponents, a harsher criticism, perhaps, of Mayweather was that the opposition he bested did not go on to achieve after his having beaten them. If this was true of Mayweather, and I do not say that it is, it is absolutely untrue of Gonzalez.

In 2009, having barely emerged into the world class, he posted his ugliest win over the much fleeter Katsunari Takayama, using aggression and pressure to out-point his much quicker opponent. When Gonzalez exited the division Takayama came again and briefly summited as the world’s best minimumweight before losing out to Francisco Rodriguez Jnr. in the fight of 2014. Rodriguez, too, was a former Gonzalez victim, stopped in seven in a rugged, one-sided encounter from 2013. Gonzalez left in his ruinous wake the men who would fight for the scraps he left behind, primed boxers capable of boxing for titles even after he battered them. His eventual legacy has been enhanced by the opposition he met in his formative years.

STYLE

“If Gonzalez is one day to reach the heights of pound-for-pound #1, he will likely need to hold multiple titles at a higher weight class, so these more careful boxing skills will be crucial.”

Gonzalez is a pressure-boxer with a serious punch (37 stoppages in 43 fights) but that is a little like saying a Beethoven’s Sixth is a piece of classical music. There are shades and variety in his destructive stylings borne, in the main, upon outstanding footwork and balance.

On paper, Gonzalez was run close by the savage Francisco Rosas in October of 2010 although in reality, Gonzalez was a clear winner. Nevertheless, Rosas did become the first man to really ruffle Roman physically, employing rabbit-punches and aggression to force Gonzalez to focus on defence rather than offence for short stretches. Rosas perhaps earned the rematch the two fought around eighteen months later for one of the many straps issued by the perennially confused WBA at 108lbs. This is the fight that best illustrates the Gonzalez default style. He begins slowly behind a high guard, but that guard is not an invitation for the opponent to lead so much as a launching pad for his own punches. He remains loose, edging forwards and laterally with tight, small moves. All is economy; if he moves it is in order that he might bring himself into range where he is at his most destructive or to give the opponent a little too much space for his own punches whereupon he can land his own counters. Half way through the first he slips to the ground and when action resumes Rosas tries to bull into him whereupon Gonzalez eases into a new gear. Not quite planted, his stance primarily supports punches now, and he finds a blistering lead right and a three-punch combination that leads seamlessly into a two-piece.

He broke Rosas around a minute into the second; the combination which dropped him for the first knockdown was eight punches long. The combination for the second knockdown was eleven punches long. Rosas had never been stopped before, and has not been knocked out since.

The pressure is relentless, specialised, but there is little about it that is flashy, he doesn’t storm the barricades like Mike Tyson or invoke perpetual motion like Joe Frazier, nor, even, does he seek to decimate flesh like Marciano. His pressure is of an even more deadly kind because it is not an ending in and of itself. Tyson, Frazier and Marciano were more terrifying than Gonzalez in their pressure but that of Gonzalez is far more precise; it is distilled to the point where it functions purely to bring him into range for unerringly accurate punches. Marciano and Frazier lacked his precision and Tyson lacked his economy. In terms of types of pressure, denoted here by the great heavies, Gonzalez is most like Joe Louis but Louis is often criticised for his footwork. Gonzalez does not have that problem.

TEMPERAMENT AND MENTAL STRENGTH

“Such maturity in such a young fighter is rare.”

It is now mostly forgotten that Juan Francisco Estrada came from almost nowhere to give Gonzalez the sternest test of his career late in 2012. It was barely more than a year since he had dropped a decision to titlist Juan Carlos Sanchez and it had taken him nine rounds to dispatch German Meraz in his previous fight despite the fact that Meraz had twice been stopped in four rounds the year before. Since, Estrada has embraced the traditional path for the best Gonzalez victims, dominating a wide variety of world-class flyweights and even enshrining himself upon the TBRB pound-for-pound list. But, to say the least, on the night Estrada ran Gonzalez so close, it was something of a surprise.

This is important to note because it must have come as something of a surprise to Gonzalez himself. With a KO% of 86, it must come as something of a surprise every time an opponent goes the distance, but the taller, rangier Estrada didn’t just survive, he troubled Gonzalez, winning the first two rounds and showing a brilliance in moving just as Gonzalez begins to motor. Kept from his fluid best early, Gonzalez doesn’t freeze and nor, crucially, does he go looking for that single punch to change the fight but rather he accepts that he is going to have to take punishment and he adapts. In the second he throws a straight right lead to the body and as Estrada starts to move off he comes square and rockets in a southpaw jab up top. He finds new planes of attack to replace those Estrada is taking away with his mobility. Estrada finishes the third with swelling around the left eye and blood trickling from his nose.

Buying his way in with suffering and surges the antithesis of his normal balanced approach, by the fifth Gonzalez had happened upon the strategy that would win him the fight. He solved the bigger, faster, world class Estrada in the ring and he did it without even a single loss of control, without the merest hint of uncertainty. It is the only time in his career that there has been tension when the fight went to the scorecards but the officials uncovered the right winner; I suspect the world-class Estrada will get another shot at Gonzalez at some point in the future.

Early in his career, Gonzalez gave an indication that it might be the case but I think now it is fair to say that strategically, he is as adaptable as a fighter can be. Mentally, he seems something close to unbreakable.

FOOTWORK AND BALANCE

“Gonzalez excels at cutting off the ring and looks every inch the mobile destroyer.”

In essence, there is little to say about Gonzalez’s balance in 2015 that I didn’t say in 2010. He does indeed look every inch the “mobile destroyer” and as I also said at that time “[t]his is the area where Gonzalez has shown the most dramatic improvement.” He has continued to shorten his stance until he looks more like a standard-issue box-puncher and he has learned lessons about occasionally sacrificing his exquisite balance in favour of a sudden charge but this facet of his game was all but perfected by the time of his move in earnest up to 108lbs.

As to his footwork, the ultimate testimony to any fighter’s mobility is his excelling against opponents that move away from him. Traditionally, movers present the biggest difficulty for pressure-fighters – returning to our heavyweight analogy, think of the struggles inflicted upon Marciano and Louis by Jersey Joe Walcott. The exception is when a swarmer has the footwork to catch the runner. Think of Joe Frazier chasing down Muhammad Ali, or Tyson’s early-round attacks. Gonzalez has such speed of pressure. He struggled in 2009, as noted, against the world-class mover Takayama, or at least he struggled to pin him down for a serious lashing while winning a wide decision, but since then he has definitely improved, both in terms of knowing when to take a risk and push and in terms of technical execution. Gonzalez is one step ahead of his man, most of the time, and as a pressure-fighter with world-class mobility, he does his best boxing when an opponent gives ground voluntarily or when he is forced to do so by Gonzalez on the warpath.

This may be the key ingredient in Gonzalez’s success.

TECHNIQUE ON OFFENCE

“Just as Gonzalez shows great variety in terms of style, so he shows great variety in his offence.”

In September of last year, Roman Gonzalez became the lineal world champion at flyweight. He had already established himself as the best fighter in the world at 105lbs and done some damage at 108lbs, but 112lbs was to be the first division where his dominance would translate into history. His opponent was the Japanese Akira Yaegashi. Yaegashi was himself a monster of a flyweight who was on a tear up through the hottest division in the sport but has failed miserably to put his career back together behind the brutal beating that Gonzalez laid upon him. It was probably the pinnacle of Roman’s career so far as offence is concerned and that makes it one of the most brilliant displays of box-punching seen since the heyday of Manny Pacquiao.

The number of leads of which Gonzalez is capable is almost as long as the list of punches that exist in boxing. This tortures opponents who move because they expect to be placed under control by the left jab. Gonzalez has one, a good one, but he sees and knows openings for all the other punches too. Yaegashi, who has fast feet, spent the first forty seconds of their fight alive to the left, only to be drilled with a short right hand to the chest. At the fifty seconds elapsed Gonzalez lands with a jab to the body; after eighty seconds it’s the lead right again; at ninety seconds he leads with a left hook. After one-hundred seconds elapsed he leads with the right uppercut and then tries to stitch a one-two on behind it. With just less than two-minutes elapsed he leads with the left-uppercut and has deployed the set.

For Yaegashi, this is a nightmare. He now has to deal with virtual threats across his entire defensive front. This is the very definition of offence working as defence because there is no quarter from which Yaegashi can assume a lesser threat. Yaegashi is world class, but Gonzalez out-and-out favours the lead right hand against him. This is arguably his most exquisite punch, one that he throws in all forms, as a snipe, as a torque-fuelled knock-out blow, as a range-finder, and he throws it to body, head, chest. Worse, it is a punch without a sell and furthermore it is a punch that he can throw behind a left-handed feint; he can dip his left shoulder as though about to hook and then drive home the right. Still, others would disagree. The Gonzalez left-hook is as short a punch as exists in boxing today, a stack of hurt compacted into a blow that is driven through the knee and the hip. It’s superb technique that has left a dozen opponents and more broken on the canvas.

Gonzalez speaks of landing seven and eight punches in quick succession and he can be seen doing so on film, but his bread and butter are the two-piece combinations that act as the spear of the offence of most great fighters. But his one-twos are about more than the jab-right hand. Against Yaegashi, he graduated quickly to bunches, having successfully feinted him out of position and onto the ropes he throws a straight-right, a left hook, steps inside for a left uppercut, back out, jab, right-hand to the body which brings him inside for the wide left hook. Of these, he missed only the left uppercut and it is only the third round.

This type of fluidity on offence is rare. I’ll go a little further: it’s non-existent. Golovkin may be as dangerous, but he is also less elastic for all that he is more destructive. Kovalev, too, is comparable on offence, but he is more a traditional technician and has not yet proven a gift for adaptation or improvisation. Manny Pacquiao is, I think, now passed this level of brilliance and while Naoya Inoue may catch Roman, he’s not there yet.

There is a reason Roman Gonzalez is the pound-for-pound number one and this is it: he is the best in the world at hitting people.

TECHNIQUE ON DEFENCE

“Gonzalez can take it when he has to.”

Roman’s engine and chin were proven beyond all hope of contradiction against Estrada. He was forced to adopt a risky strategy to get the win which meant he had to take hard punches throughout, but come bell he was still throwing and still marching grimly forwards. It was the last piece of the jigsaw in terms of his raw ability and he is now confirmed.

Technically, Gonzalez still abandons his guard occasionally when he throws right handed, his left hand given to wandering. This makes me wonder if he might not prove especially vulnerable to a southpaw with fast hands and why he is proven vulnerable to anyone brave enough to lead with a right hand to the body (stand up Rocky Fuentes). He also abandons the shifty defensive movement he employs at the beginning of the fight when he goes late, another reason a concrete chin is such a boon.

On the plus side, he shows good head movement early, is generally disciplined where his defensive guard is concerned and has some parrying skills. Just as he is a factor of ten ahead of Floyd Mayweather on offence, he is a factor of ten behind him on defence, but he is only Rocky Marciano when he chooses to be, when it is necessary, and for most of the rest of the time he is reasonably difficult to hit clean.

RING GENERALSHIP

“In essence, Gonzalez’s style solves a lot of generalship problems almost by default.”

What I meant by the above remark is that Gonzalez’s dual ability to box his way in or storm his way in provides him with two distinct opportunities at solving any given opponent. When the first fails, as was the case versus Takayama, the second present a default alternative. Now, he has proven the existence of a Defcom Three against Estrada. More than this, the enormous value of his intrinsic abilities means he rarely finds himself in a fight he actually needs to change – whether he is boxing inside, outside, against a fleeing opponent or one who wants to match him, he always comes out on top of the majority of battles and without exception, of the war.

That being said, he has demonstrated a superb ability to force his opponent into the fight he himself wants to be in. Whether he is drawing the fleet-footed Juan Purisima inside or forcing the savage Francisco Rodriguez to give ground, Gonzalez is, at 43-0, a past-master in what Sam Langford surmised as stopping the other man from doing what he wants to do.

SPEED AND POWER

“He may find himself out-sped in fights, but this is unlikely to be the cause of his downfall.”

Re-reading the above line, I’m struck by its brashness. Being out-sped is as likely to lead to a fighter’s downfall as any other single differential. Gonzalez rewarded my confidence however, proving that he can overcome a speed differential.

Gonzalez has come from 105lbs; he’s fast, and although there are faster fighters at 112lbs and below I think he has closed that gap slightly between this and the last time I wrote about him. Thomas Hauser wrote recently in an article about drug use in professional sport that fighters don’t get older, faster and bigger all at the same time but there is a caveat here. It’s true that a fighter’s handspeed shouldn’t increase but a fighter can absolutely get better at landing the second punch in a combination and if he has the type of coordination Gonzalez does, he can get better at landing the third. As his grasp of his own body-mechanics improves a fighter can indeed give the impression of punching more quickly. I think this is the case with Gonzalez and I think this is why faster fighters cannot overcome him.

His feet, too, are quick rather than lightning fast, but he doesn’t waste a single step. This makes cornering quicker fighters simply a matter of persistence; the flyweights are the fastest and there is no flyweight, light-flyweight or minimumweight who has shared the ring with Gonzalez who hasn’t felt the panic at his back hitting the ring-post.

In terms of power, Gonzalez is not among the very elite but he is on the cusp. He has stopped numerous fighters at 112lbs and above and this is his third weight division. Yes, many of these stoppages are a matter of accumulation but one has only to look at the reaction of the veteran Edgar Sosa to the punches thrown at him by Roman Gonzalez during his two-round debut on HBO this year to understand that Gonzalez, if not quite uncovering dynamite, comes to the ring heavily armed.

THE FUTURE

While Mayweather was anointed pound-for-pound extremely early in his career and broke into the Ring list in just his third year as a professional, the same year he won his first strap, Gonzalez was ranked a lowly #9 by Ring as late as November last year by which time he had held straps in three weight divisions – a rather hasty re-appraisal has been ordered in the light of both his HBO debut and the high regard Gonzalez is held in by the wider boxing world. Whatever the detail, both TBRB and Ring have him at number one now, and number one is assuredly where he belongs.

But what’s next?

In his immediate future is a fighter who has himself flirted with a p4p ranking before the wheels were dramatically stricken off by the aforementioned Juan Francisco Estrada, Brian Viloria, “The Hawaiian Punch”. Assuming Gonzalez is victorious here, he has two basic choices. Firstly, he could step up to super-flyweight for a meeting with Naoya Inoue, tackling the man they fittingly call “The Monster” before he has a chance to season. The second is to remain at flyweight, which still has the bones of one of the best divisions in the sport, and clear it out. This, I believe is within his capabilities and is the path he should chose. The temptation of what would be a legitimate superfight with Inoue – these two men are stars in Japan for all that they are little known in the west – may be too much to resist. Win or lose, such a move would have consequences. I felt in 2005 that super-fly may be a bridge too far for Gonzalez and I stand by that.

Either way, boxing has a new pound-for-pound king and surely one it can be proud of. Gonzalez is not just the antithesis of Floyd Mayweather in terms of style but in terms of personality, also. He is humble, gracious and bereft of the more unfortunate appetites that beset Mayweather – a fighter I admired enormously but a man with considerable shortcomings in his life away from the ring.

Gonzalez is not like that. Obviously, sadly, cross-over appeal is limited for a flyweight but those that know fights and fighters have been consistent in embracing him. Long may it continue.

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Frank Erne Enters the Boxing Hall of Fame, a Well-Deserved Honor

Arne K. Lang

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Former featherweight and lightweight champion Frank Erne was back in the news last week with the announcement that he is entering the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Erne and the other members of the newest class will be formally enshrined on Sunday, June 14, 2020.

Mr. Erne won’t be able to attend the induction ceremony. He’s been dead since 1954. However, were he alive, he would have the satisfaction of knowing that this honor is well-deserved.

Frank Erne competed from 1892 to 1908. Of his 53 documented fights, 21 were slated for 20 rounds or more. His opponents included George Dixon, Terry McGovern, and Joe Gans, all of whom went into the Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990. Dixon, a bantamweight, McGovern, a featherweight, and Gans, a lightweight, are widely considered the best of all time in their respective weight classes. Erne defeated Dixon and Gans although both turned the table in rematches.

Frank Erne becomes the first fighter born in Switzerland to enter the IBHOF. When he was six or seven years old (reports vary) his parents moved to Buffalo, New York. In his early teens, he found work as a pinsetter in a bowling alley that was part of a larger complex that included a boxing gym. An instructor there, a boxing professor as they were called back then, took Erne under his wing.

Erne had his early fights in Buffalo. In 1895, he went to New York and attracted national notice with back-to-back knockouts of Jack Skelly. A Brooklyn man, Skelly was such an outstanding amateur that there was little backlash when he was sent in against featherweight champion George Dixon in his very first pro fight (the opening match in the Carnival of Champions at New Orleans, an event climaxed by the historic fight between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett).

Skelly was no match for Dixon and ultimately no match for Frank Erne. Two months after their second meeting, Erne had his first of three encounters with Dixon. Their initial go was a 10-rounder that was fairly ruled a draw. The rematch was set for 20 rounds with Dixon’s title on the line.

Here’s Nat Fleischer’s post factum: “Erne proved to be in every respect a superior boxer on this occasion for he outpointed Dixon at long range, beat him decisively at in-fighting, had it all over Dixon in ring generalship, besides possessing courage and fearlessness.” The ringside correspondent for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, more measured in his assessment, called it “one of the fiercest and cleanest fights, as well as one of the most scientific, that has ever been seen.”

Dixon had lost only twice previously, the first by disqualification and the other in a 4-round contest, and would win back his title in the rubber match, clearly out-pointing Erne in a match that went 25 rounds.

Making weight was always a problem for Frank Erne. After surrendering his title to Dixon, he moved up to lightweight and challenged George “Kid” Lavigne. They fought twice.

In their first meeting, Lavigne, the fabled “Saginaw Kid,” retained his title thanks to a generous referee who scored the fight a draw, but justice was served in the rematch which was staged at an outdoor arena on the outskirts of Buffalo on the day preceding the Fourth of July,1899. Despite injuring his hand in the seventh frame, Erne gave Lavigne a good drubbing and had his hand raised at the conclusion of the 20-round match. He now had the distinction of winning world titles in two separate weight classes.

Erne first met Joe Gans in March of 1900 when Gans was still in his prime. The match, slated for 25 rounds, ended in the 12th when Gans suffered a terrible injury to his left eye – some reports say the eye was knocked out of its socket – from an accidental clash of heads. The referee ruled that Gans was at fault and awarded the contest to Erne. Based on newspaper reports, that was a fair adjudication as Erne, the defending champion, had all the best of it, leaving Gans in great distress at the end of the previous round.

Gans avenged the defeat 26 months later, knocking out Erne in the opening round at Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, across the Niagara River from Buffalo. Erne’s unrelenting battle with the scales had finally caught up with him.

Erne retired the following year, but returned five years later and had one more fight, winning a 10-round decision in Paris over British veteran Curly Watson in a fight billed for the welterweight championship of France. He remained in the French capitol for some time thereafter, working as a boxing instructor and promoting a few fights before returning to the United States and taking up residence in New York City.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Frank Erne was no fool with his money, but the stock market crash of 1929 dealt him a severe blow and he was forced to seek regular employment. He became a salesman for a fuel company.

Erne won’t be around for his formal IBHOF induction, but he wasn’t completely forgotten in his dotage. On Jan. 9, 1951, the day after his 76th birthday, he received a special award at the silver anniversary dinner of the Boxing Writers Association, a gala affair held in the posh Starlight Room of the Waldorf-Astoria with entertainment provided by Jimmy Durante and other nightclub headliners.

Erne wasn’t honored only for his in-ring exploits, but for his good character. During World War II and again during the Korean War, it was common for famous boxers of yesteryear to visit wounded soldiers in VA hospitals and regale them with stories from their fighting days to boost their spirits. Frank Erne, although he had some infirmities, was especially active in this regard, “indefatigable” said New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley.

Frank Erne, it says here, is a worthy addition to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Kudos to the electors who placed him on their ballot.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 76: Welterweights Vergil, Terence and More

David A. Avila

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In the words of many boxing journalists, fighters, trainers and promoters “styles make fights,” and those differences can lead to unpredictable outcomes. The weekend brings a few stylish welterweights on display from California to New York.

Welterweight ingénue Vergil Ortiz Jr. (14-0, 14 KOs) enters the world of unpredictability when he meets Brad Solomon (28-1, 9 KOs) a swift-moving veteran on Friday, Dec. 13, at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif. DAZN will show the loaded Golden Boy Promotions fight card.

It’s Ortiz’s third year as a professional and fifth time performing at the Indio casino. It’s also where he made his pro debut back in July 2016 when he began his remarkable string of 14 consecutive knockout wins.

Solomon, 36, has made a career of fighting pressure fighters and making them miss or defusing their power. Only Russia’s Konstantin Ponomarev, who was trained at the time by Abel Sanchez, was able to hang a loss on the Georgia fighter’s ledger.

Can Ortiz handle the style difference?

“Vergil can do more than people think,” said Vergil Ortiz Sr., father of the lanky welterweight slugger. “He can box any style.”

As a professional, Ortiz has yet to fight someone like Solomon with his juke and move style of fighting. As an amateur he did face speedsters like Ryan Garcia. As a pro, this will mark his first in the prize ring. It should be interesting.

Power Packed Support

Knockout artist Ortiz leads a power packed-boxing card that includes a number of Golden Boy’s best knockout punchers like Bektemir Melikuziev, Alberto Machado and Luis Feliciano. All of these guys can punch and are looking to put the cap on 2019.

That’s a lot of firepower.

But also on the card is someone fighting for 360 Promotions named Serhii Bohachuk, otherwise known as “El Flaco.” Just like Ortiz, Bohachuk has never allowed the final bell to be rung against 16 foes so far. He is going for 17 when he fights Carlos Galvan (17-9-1) in a super welterweight fight set for eight rounds. Don’t expect to hear the final bell whenever the Ukrainian trained by Mexican style coach Abel Sanchez gets in the ring.

Bohachuk could be following in the footsteps of another guy formerly trained by Abel Sanchez named Gennady Golovkin. It’s still too early, but he looks pretty good so far.

New York City

Top welterweight Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs) defends the WBO welterweight title against Lithuania’s Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. ESPN will televise the Top Rank card.

In the crowded and talented world of the welterweights, Crawford could very well be the best of them all. If only he could prove it. The Omaha-Nebraska prizefighter has tried every enticement possible to lure Errol Spence Jr., Danny “Swift” Garcia, Shawn Porter and Manny Pacquiao. Nothing works.

What does work for Crawford has been a reputation as one of the best prizefighters in the world pound for pound. Some tab him as the very best especially when it comes to speed, agility and the ability to innovate on the spot. He has few peers.

Facing Crawford will be Kavaliauskas who trains in Oxnard with a number of Eastern Europeans including Vasyl Lomachenko. They share the same management. He’s never faced anyone close in talent to Crawford. Except, maybe inside of his own gym.

“I’m not focused on no other opponent besides the opponent that’s in front of me. My goal is to make sure I get the victory come this weekend, and that’s the only person I’m focused on now,” said Crawford. “Anyone else is talk. It goes in one ear and out the other. He’s young, hungry and I’m not taking him lightly.”

Crawford has been chasing stardom for a number of years. What better place than New York City’s Madison Square Garden to showcase his skills to the public. At age 32, Crawford is running out of sand.

Lightweight Title Fight

The co-main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden features IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) defending against wunderkind Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs).

But this weekend truly belongs to the welterweights.

Next Week

Southern California will be packed with boxing. It’s a last gasp before the end of 2019.

Ontario, California will be hosting a very large Premier Boxing Champions fight card at the Toyota Center on Saturday Dec. 21.

WBC super welterweight titlist Tony Harrison finally defends against Jermall Charlo in a rematch and it won’t be friendly. These guys hate each other.

“He’s fake,” said Harrison when they last met in Los Angeles for a press conference.

It won’t be pretty when they meet next week.

Tickets are on sale. Go to this link for more information: https://www.toyota-arena.com/events/detail/premier-boxing-champions

Fights to Watch

Fri. DAZN 4:30 p.m. Vergil Ortiz (14-0) vs Brad Solomon (28-1); Serhii Bohachuk (16-0) vs Carlos Galvan (17-9-1).

Sat. Facebook 5 p.m. Diego De La Hoya (21-1) vs Renson Robles (16-6).

Sat. ESPN 6 p.m. Terence Crawford (35-0) vs Egidijus Kaviliauskas (21-0-1); Teofimo Lopez (14-0) vs Richard Commey (29-2).

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A Toast to Busy Bee Emanuel Navarrete, a Fighter from the Old School

Ted Sares

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In the last 12 months, super bantamweight Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete has fought five times. That’s close to Old School-type activity.

No one in Mexico gave Navarette much notice until he stopped Luis Bedolla Orozco (18-2) in Guadalajara in 2017. He turned more heads when he KO’d Filipino veteran Glenn Porras in January 2018 and fans outside Mexico began to take serious note of this no-nonsense youngster (now just 24) when he stopped Columbia’s “El General” Jose Sanmartin (26-4-1) five months later.

That win, his eighth straight by stoppage, earned him an interim belt and opened the door to a world title shot. It came on Dec. 8, 2018 at Madison Square Garden against undefeated (20-0) WBO world super bantamweight champion Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe.

Navarrete, five inches taller at 5’7”, shocked the hard-punching Brit (by way of Ghana) to win a decision and become the new champion. The scores were 115-113, 116-112, and 116-112, but more to the point, Dogboe’s post-fight face looked like it had gone through the proverbial meat grinder. The tall Mexican had fought tall and picked the much smaller Dogboe apart with precise and pinpoint punching.

The rematch proved that Emanuel’s first win was no fluke as he showed late round power in stopping Dogboe in the 12th. He again used his height advantage, showed great stamina and strength, was accurate with his punches, and once again the too-short Dogboe’s face looked like he was on the wrong end of a big city mugging.

His first title defense came against Francisco De Vaca (20-0) who is a fixture at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, Arizona. This one lasted three rounds as Vaquero (“cowboy” in English) used a neat uppercut to stun De Vaca in the second and then rendered a terrible beating in the third to end the fight—one that should have been halted earlier by referee Raul Caiz Sr. who seemed far more “brave” than the fighters.

On September 14, 2019, Navarrete used his signature wide left hooks and uppercuts to end matters in the middle of the third round against Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1). Juan Miguel, the grandson of Filipino boxing legend Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, made the mistake of engaging Navarrete in a firefight and lost. This one took place at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and boxing fans now knew who this tall super bantamweight was.

In his most recent fight — this one in Mexico — Navarrete put on another display of accurate power punching to stop Francisco Horta (20-3-1) at 2.09 of round 4. After a somewhat typical slow start, Navarrete found his groove and began serious stalking, using looping combinations at strange angles inside and outside, finally catching Horta on the ropes in the fourth, ending matters with stunning closure. It was his 25th straight win dating back to 2012 when he was defeated by one Daniel Argueta by a 4-round decision.

Navarrete, one of seven current Mexican world title-holders, is now looking to unify at 122. He also might be interested in fighting Naoya Inoue if “Monster” moves up in weight, and given Inoue’s recent fight with Nonito Donaire in which he showed that he is human after all, this one could be a sizzler.

As to his chances for “Fighter of the Year,” they are probably slim, but that has nothing to do with whether he deserves it and everything to do with poor public relations. Yes, a solid case can be made for Josh Warrington, but enough with the Canelo, Loma, Usyk types who fight twice a year.

Emanuel Navarrete is more active than any other title-holder or top contender and has a KO percentage of 84% despite the fact that his last five opponents had a combined record of 108-5-1 coming in. And he has a fan-friendly style, stalking, stunning, and closing his opponents with controlled violence. In many respects, he fights like a pre-scandal and prime Antonio Margarito, except he is more technically sound. The fact is, Vaquero, the pride of San Juan Zitlaltepec, is super exciting and doesn’t seem to have any noticeable weaknesses.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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