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Would Prime Klitschko Have Beaten Fury ?

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This past weekend WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight title holder Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53) lost all three of his title straps to Tyson Fury 25-0 (18) via unanimous decision. Fury’s somewhat stunning upset ended Klitschko’s 9 1/2-year reign (2nd only to Joe Louis’ 12-year reign as heavyweight champ) as the alpha fighter in what used to be boxing’s flagship division. Klitschko, for much of his duration as champ was the subject of conjecture in regards to how good or great he was or wasn’t. Some viewed him as one of the greats and others thought he was nothing more than a huge physical presence and just a big fish in a small pond. His fights weren’t terribly exciting because Wladimir did a lot of holding and clinching as a result of being stopped three times before he became a full-flowered fighter under the guidance of head trainer Emmanuel Steward.

Under Steward, Wladimir learned how to use his size and reach and to fight like a big man. And boy did that pay dividends for him, especially against the more physically limited opponents he defended his titles against. If you go back and read what was stated in this space before many of Wladimir’s title defenses, you’ll note that it was often highlighted that everybody he fights, must first address what he’s going to do against them – before they can devise their counter attack….Something that changed drastically the night he met Tyson Fury, who at 6’9″ is three inches taller with a two inch reach advantage, something Wladimir seldom was ever confronted with.

Now with Wladimir days removed from losing to Fury, the boxing community has it’s panties in a bunch going back and forth as to whether or not Fury, 27, would’ve defeated Wladimir, 39, if he was at or near his physical prime, which clearly wasn’t the case on November 28, 2015. While in the ring with Fury, Klitschko looked as if he aged in dog years during particular patches of the bout. Those defending Klitschko for his poor showing have countered that Joe Louis was 37 when 28 year old Rocky Marciano knocked him out of the ring, Muhammad Ali was 39 when 30 year old Larry Holmes pummeled him for seven of the 10 rounds the fight went, and Holmes was 38 when 21 year old Mike Tyson stopped Larry in four rounds. Historically, despite those one-sided beatings, Louis ranks above Marciano, Ali ranks above Holmes and Holmes ranks above Tyson.

Okay, I get it, the old great was clearly at a disadvantage, but styles did play a part in the above like in the Klitschko-Fury bout.

Prime-for-prime, I’d take Louis over Marciano, but Joe often said he had trouble with swarmers like Rocky. I’d take the best Ali I ever saw over the best Holmes I ever saw, but Larry was almost a mirror image of Muhammad and Ali always had trouble with guys who could jab, and Holmes owned one of the greatest jabs in heavyweight history. As for prime Holmes versus prime Tyson, I like Larry to do what Buster Douglas did, only more convincingly. However, Holmes never fought one good let alone great attacker like Tyson, and the fighters who did pressure him like Ken Norton and Mike Weaver did, gave Larry two of his toughest fights during his seven year title tenure. Prime-for-prime, it’s not automatic that Klitschko beats Fury although he’d have to be considered the favorite.

Yes, the Klitschko-Fury bout was nearly impossible to watch, and the overall mean of fighting during it was not worthy of having the words heavyweight championship of the world attached to it. That said, Fury’s size, style, awkwardness and lack of fear would’ve always given Wladimir, if not an ulcer, at least bad indigestion. During Klitschko’s reign as champ, I gave him his props but dully noted that his size, being 6’6″ with good form and athleticism played a big part in his success. Sure, he fought some big opponents, but most of them were just that, big. Not one of them were close to being a good technician, most were too awed and scared to fight him, and the others lacked the skill and punch to bother him. In Tyson Fury, for the first time, he had a fighter in front of him who he not only had to look up to, but also couldn’t just extend his left arm like it was a leg and keep Tyson away from him. Fury took that luxury away and knew his jab would keep Klitschko occupied and befuddled like he never was before in his career.

Wladimir, in past bouts used his jab to keep his opponents away and once they were blunted by the jab, BAM, he’d cut loose with the disguised right hand and that would usually be the beginning of the end. Other than one-twos and an occasional hook off the jab, Wladimir never punched in combination because it was too risky. He fully grasped that when he let his hands go, even against an opponent who was often in retreat, he was vulnerable and open. He also never went to the body because he had to bring his hands down and that would leave his chin open, so it wasn’t worth the risk. Another hole in his game was, due to his size, upper-body and head movement wasn’t a staple of his game. In the main, Wladimir never had to take any risk. The jab worked offensively and defensively and the right, when the opponent sensed he had to take a risk if winning was the goal, usually was tug in the middle of a desperate exchange. A very simplistic strategy, but one cannot dispute the end result.

The above formula worked beautifully for Wladimir and that alone would cause a lot of past greats trouble. However, against Tyson Fury it didn’t cut it. For once Wladimir was getting peppered with a pesky jab, and just when he thought he could match Fury’s jab, Tyson either moved, switched to southpaw or grabbed and clinched him, exposing another thing Klitschko couldn’t do; fight on the inside. Another thing Fury did was use head and shoulder feints, which really exposed just how much Wladimir feared getting nailed with a sucker shot. The moderate feints usually caused Klitschko to interrupt whatever he was doing or on the verge of doing. For once Klitschko had to address what his opponent was doing to him, and doing so while getting hit and mocked totally unnerved him psychologically. With just a little movement and slipping Wladimir could’ve perhaps got inside and ripped Fury’s body….but he never needed head movement or had to work the body before. Couple that with his reluctance to assume risk, you saw what you got. And that was a big strong guy lumbering around the ring looking for one punch to end the fight. A problem which became exponentially bigger because Wladimir would only let loose if he felt it was safe and Tyson couldn’t counter him.

For the better part of 12-rounds Wladimir Klitschko was asked many questions strategically by Tyson Fury that he never had been before. This wasn’t an accident, Tyson and his team did a terrific job getting ready for Klitschko from a fundamental and strategic perspective. Against Fury, whose size, reach and movement presented him a conundrum like he never had to deal with before in over 19 years as a pro – many of his deficiencies as a fighter were exposed? And I’m not sure that wouldn’t have been the case had Wladimir been at his peak.

It’s been recently reported that Wladimir is going to exercise the return clause in his contract and fight Tyson again. So I ask, what will change in the rematch? It’s not in Wladimir’s nature to come out bombing the way Lennox Lewis did against Andrew Golota. And if he doesn’t do that, is it plausible to think he’s going to cut off the ring and beat Fury ‘s body and slow him down, making it easier to plant some big right hands on his chin; I don’t know. And what if Fury survives and thrives in the early going of the rematch? Will Wladimir lose gumption and revert back to a walking statue looking for the perfect shot to pull the fight out as the rounds go by?

Again, I don’t know, and that’s why as dreadful as the first fight was, I want to see the rematch.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney in Hollywood, Jake, Amanda and More

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HOLLYWOOD, Ca.- Adorned in a white suit, Ryan “King Ry” Garcia arrived on a big white horse followed by a handful of fair maidens dressed in various colors and some twirling hula hoops into the Avalon Theater on Vine Street on Thursday.

Inside the historic theater that once served as the Hollywood Canteen during World War 2, where actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth greeted soldiers, but this time it was the boxing media waiting.

Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) will challenge undefeated Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) for the WBC super lightweight world title on April 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. DAZN pay-per-view will stream the Golden Boy Promotions card.

It doesn’t get more Hollywood than this.

Inside the 97-year-old theater, once the two opposing factions arrived, the pageantry turned into a war of words, taunts and accusations.

This is boxing.

Aside from the taunts and words of derision tossed at each other, the Haney father and son combination admitted that Garcia was the one fighter willing to fight Devin.

“He (Garcia) raised his hand when no one else did,” said Bill Haney the father.

Devin Haney sat next to his father on the stage anxious as ever to prove his talent in the prize ring. After his victory over Regis Prograis that followed wins over Vasyl Lomachenko and George Kambosos, the former undisputed lightweight world champion is now dwelling in the super lightweight division and holds the WBC version.

“I was killing myself trying to make the weight,” said Haney about moving up to the 140-pound super lightweight division.

Haney has long been familiar with Ryan Garcia since their amateur days as they met in the boxing ring six times as youths.

“They fought six times in the amateurs with both of them winning three apiece. Now they meet with championship gold and the chance at being the face of American boxing on the line,” said Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter and head of Golden Boy Promotions. “In other words, this one counts!”

Garcia and Haney have taken similar paths.

Garcia fought professionally numerous times in Mexico where it is legal to fight under the age of 18. So did Haney. Both faced unknown opponents, sometimes last-minute changes forced them to fight foes that were not originally scheduled.

As pros, the two similarly and eagerly sought to face the best opponents possible despite their inexperience. Both proved more than capable.

Garcia quickly amassed a surprisingly large following of fans through social media and through his exploits of sudden knockouts from his uncanny speed.

“Everything I have today, I earned it,” said Garcia. “Nobody gave me a handout, I never had money, I’m really a small town boy.”

Haney proved able to defeat veteran world champions feared for their technical expertise with his own buttery-smooth fighting prowess.

“I am happy to be here. I worked hard to be here. I sacrificed a lot to be here, and at the end of the day, the world will see it on April 20,” said Devin Haney.

Next month in Brooklyn the two longtime foes will be performing. Will it be the biggest grossing pay-per-view of the year 2024?

Jake and Amanda

Jake Paul and Amanda Serrano are boxing’s best tag team.

Several years ago, Paul recognized that Serrano, a seven-division world champion Puerto Rican was capable of much more than fighting on the small stage.

Genius.

Paul signed Serrano to his Most Valuable Promotions company and together they have been able to draw a mixture of fans long ignored by other promoters.

Welcome to the age of the influencers.

For the past several years Paul has fought MMA stars, boxers and other social media influencers. And when he signed Serrano she fought Katie Taylor in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden where their fight drew more than a million pay-per-views.

Paul (8-1, 5 KOs) meets Ryan Bourland (17-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round cruiserweight fight on Saturday March 2, at Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot in San Juan, Puerto Rico. DAZN will stream the card.

He will be co-piloting the fight card with the great Amanda Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) who will be defending the undisputed featherweight world championship against Germany’s Nina “the Brave” Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs).

Once again Serrano and Paul will share a very good fight card that also features female super flyweights Krysti Rosario-Ortiz (2-0) and Gloria Munguilla (5-0).

Others on the card include Javon “Wanna” Walton, a featherweight out of Atlanta, Georgia. If he looks familiar there is a reason. He was featured in the Sylvester Stallone film Samaritan and also appeared in the HBO series Euphoria.

Walton has always boxed and now will be a part of the Paul and Serrano team.

Paul has that magic touch for attracting fans to boxing.

Just today Most Valuable Promotions signed Indian prizefighter Neeraj Goyat. The welterweight fighter was recently seen on social media approaching Paul in his training camp and daring the fighter to meet him in the boxing ring. The short video clip attracted more than 150 million views.

Paul, ever the think-out-of-the-box promoter, signed Goyat immediately.

“In just 2.5 years, MVP has organized some of the world’s most significant boxing events, and I’m excited to work with MVP to elevate the status of professional boxing in India and bring attention to boxers from India globally,” said an excited Goyat.

“His viral callouts of Jake Paul certainly got our attention,” said MVP co-founder Nakisa Bidarian.

Out-of-the box thinking.

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Sat. DAZN 1:30 p.m. Amanda Serrano (46-2-1) vs Nina Meinke (18-3).

Sat. ESPN+ 2:10 pm Otabek Kholmatov 12-0, 11 KOs) vs. Raymod Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs); Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) vs Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs)

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

When it comes to professional boxing down in the Tampa Bay area, Canadian transplant Garry Jonas is a one-man band.

The architect of the Wednesday Night Fights series, Jonas doesn’t have to pay a site fee for the shows that he promotes because he owns the venue. The shows that he stages at his Whitesands Events Center in Plant City air on his live streaming platform ProBoxTV. His series currently has only one sponsor, a bookmaking operation called SportsBetting.Ag., and he owns that too. (A self-styled serial entrepreneur, Jonas continued his assault on the established order last week with his purchase of the respected Boxing Scene website, but that’s a story best saved for another day.)

Jonas promotes high-grade club fights. When he started this venture, he promised entertaining, well-matched fights and tonight he delivered. The “A” side fighters in the co-main events were matched tough.

In the featured bout, lightweight Justin Pauldo (17-2, 1 NC) was upset by Mexico’s Miguel Madueno. Managed by Jolene Mazzone, the former VP and matchmaker for Main Events and trained by Ronnie Shields, Pauldo, a resident or nearby Orlando, was unbeaten in his last 12 heading in.

In his previous start, Madueno turned in a lackluster performance against surging Canadian campaigner Steve Claggett. His showing (he was 30-1 with 28 KOs heading in) was inconsistent with his record. Tonight, he was more pugnacious, out-working the man in front of him, a 4/1 favorite. The decision was split; 97-92 and 95-94 for Madueno, 95-94 for Pauldo. There were no knockdowns, but the Mexican had a point deducted in round 5 for leading with his head.

Co-Feature

The co-main was an entertaining 10-round light heavyweight affair in which Edgar Berlanga stablemate Najee Lopez improved to 10-0 (8) with a hard-earned majority decision over Marcos Escudero (14-3). One of the judges had it a draw (95-95) but he was overruled by his cohorts who had it 97-93 and 99-91.

Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent but was born and raised in the Atlanta area, hadn’t previously gone beyond six rounds. He was the house fighter. Named the 2023 Prospect of the Year by the ProBox team of TV commentators, Lopez was making his eighth appearance at Whitesands. Escudero, a South Florida-based Argentine had won four straight heading in at club shows in Delray Beach, FL after back-to-back setbacks in competitive fights with Joseph George.

Escudero, who did most of the leading, had many good moments. The 99-91 tally against the Argentine was a head-scratcher. (Commentator Paulie Malignaggi said the offending  judge, Alvaro Rodriguez, should have his fee withheld and be forced to serve a one-year suspension.)

Also

In an 8-round lightweight contest, former two-time Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 27-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began his pro career in China and now resides in southern California, improved to 9-0 (4) with a unanimous decision over Guinea-born Mohamed Soumaoro (11-3) who was a willing mixer but was out-classed. The scores were 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

As one would expect from a two-time Olympian, Erdenebat is a good technician who puts his punches together well, but doesn’t have a lot of power. If his name rings a bell, he’s the fellow who purportedly sent Ryan Garcia to the hospital from the effects of a body punch during a sparring session.

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Two Featherweight Title Fights Top a Strong Bill at Turning Stone on Saturday

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When Top Rank announced in December that they would be returning to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for an ESPN+ show on March 2nd featuring two featherweight world title fights they promised a deep action-packed show. Usually such words fall by the wayside as the event ultimately comes together but in this instance the docket is loaded from top to bottom with name attractions, undefeated prospects, local grudge matches and two very well-matched co-headliners.

In the first of the co-headliners, Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) makes the third defense of his IBF featherweight belt against Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs). Lopez is a popular brawler whose aggressive style and lack of attention to defense usually makes for entertaining fights. Abe, a southpaw, is a slick boxer who is coming off a career best win against Kiko Martinez last April. Abe has a style similar to that of Ruben Villa who outboxed Lopez to a ten round unanimous decision win in 2019.

The co-headline finale is being contested for the vacant WBA featherweight title between Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) and Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs). Both fighters were highly touted heading into the pro ranks. Ford has the speed advantage but Kholmatov has a big edge in power. Social media seems split right down the middle on this fight and oddsmakers agree installing Kholmatov as a very slight favorite as of this writing.

Also on this show is the return of the ever popular Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) who bounced back from his first career defeat on Dec. 16 at a show in Guinea where he defeated a Frenchman with a 9-2-1 record (mysteriously, that fight isn’t yet listed on boxrec). He will face off against Luke Iannuccilli (7-0, 3 KOs). Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, will make his debut at Turning Stone Resort Casino in the same exact arena where his aunt and Boxing Hall of Famer Laila Ali made her professional boxing debut in October of 1999 with her legendary father sitting ringside. This will mark the fourth time a member of Muhammad Ali’s family has fought at Turning Stone.

The card also includes several contests featuring up-and-coming undefeated fighters. One match in particular to keep an eye on is an eight-round welterweight bout between a pair of unbeaten fighters in Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) and Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Zaina opened some eyes last November when he defeated Marcelino Lopez and Polanco is coming off three consecutive wins against opponents who had a cumulative record of 39-3.

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t notate the local grudge match on the docket between Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) of Buffalo and Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs) of Syracuse. They are scheduled to face off in a six-round bout in the 140-pound division. They are on this show because each have solid local fan bases and matching them was a way to help fill the stands. Mills is a sharp accurate counterpuncher with all-around solid skills. Ngayot is an aggressive fighter who is not afraid to be first and fire away to the body. Stylistically this could turn into quite a barnburner and each have plenty of motivation to make a statement on what is a much bigger stage than they are accustomed to.

We are often quick to criticize those in the sport when cards come together that are seemingly either loaded with mismatches or bouts that just don’t pique much interest. This is an instance where those involved need to be applauded for putting together a card from top to bottom that will certainly give fans plenty of bang for their buck.

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