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Execution Will Decide Porter-Garcia More Than Style

During the next two weeks there will be two high profile bouts in which the style contrast between the fighters couldn’t be more discernible

Frank Lotierzo

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During the next two weeks there will be two high profile bouts in which the style contrast between the fighters couldn’t be more discernible. I’m speaking of this weekend’s WBC welterweight title bout between former titlists Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, followed by the Canelo-Golovkin middleweight title rematch on September 15th. Both clashes feature a counter-puncher (Garcia & Canelo) versus a swarmer/attacker (Porter & Golovkin). And although most observers consider the counter-puncher holding the stylistic advantage, that is not necessarily true.

One of the biggest fights over the last 50 years that featured a premier swarmer and a premier counter-puncher was the first encounter between heavyweights Joe Frazier and Jerry Quarry back in June of 1969. Prior to the fight momentum was gaining in the media suggesting Quarry had the right style to befuddle Frazier and neutralize his aggression. But those that held this opinion were wrong. Jerry had the better of Joe in the first and most of the second round, but starting in the third Frazier’s aggression and his volume punching, along with him smothering Quarry’s room to get off freely, left nothing and no time for Jerry to counter. Instead he was rushing his shots trying to occupy Frazier and in doing that he couldn’t get everything on them and that enabled Joe to dictate the pace and ring geography of the bout. The Garcia-Porter clash on paper has some similarities to Frazier-Quarry I although the Frazier-Porter comparison is imperfect being that Joe was a more polished and effective attacker with a bigger pound-for-pound punch than Porter.

The fighter capable of executing his style best due to his greater ability to stay within himself will go a long way in deciding the outcome of Porter-Garcia on September 8th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Porter 28-2-1 (17) is one of the better conditioned fighters in boxing and that’s a necessity due to the way he fights. He’s only lost to the best of the best in the welterweight division, dropping close decisions to title holders Kell Brook and Keith Thurman. Porter is the quintessential attacker, in that he really tries not to give his opponents any room or time to do anything but retreat or defend. The problem is sometimes he gets in so tight he becomes easy to tie up and blunts his own offense. Against Garcia, Porter, instead of attacking in waves, would be best suited by applying Frazier-type bell-to-bell constant pressure, and that hasn’t been his strength. Shawn is either on you like a wet t-shirt or lying in wait for his chance to attack like a mountain lion. I’ve seen it said that Porter has a better jab than Garcia, but that isn’t set in stone. And Garcia isn’t the least bit concerned with Shawn’s jab because he knows it’s basically just a distraction to clear a path for Porter’s right hand and looping hooks that he throws from both sides.

Danny Garcia 34-1 (20), like Porter, is always in shape and has fought some of the best fighters in between 140-147. His only loss was to Keith Thurman. He has a few slight advantages over Porter, but to beat him he may have to be on his game even more than Shawn. Garcia is the more restrained fighter and seldom breaks his shell regarding who he is stylistically, but he is also smart enough to know when it’s imperative that he change things up to salvage a fight that’s hanging in the balance. Danny also has sound fundamentals and is best when he counters and picks his spots. He’s better defensively than Porter and is the more accurate puncher who relies more on timing. He’ll cede physical strength to Porter but he’ll try to use that against him and will rely on his solid chin when he miscalculates.

When it comes to who is the more versatile fighter of the two, it’s clearly Garcia. However, in this pairing that won’t matter one bit because Porter is going to force Garcia to retreat or fight it out with him, with no other option. And it would be a huge surprise if he didn’t.

Danny knows Shawn has no choice but to bring the heat because Porter can’t win fighting at ring center or fighting in retreat and also that’s not who he is. Porter is going to attack, swing for the fence with every punch to the head and body and hit anywhere he sees an opening or thinks he can create one. In this fight Porter is going to need to be the ultimate swarmer. And by that I mean his pressure and volume punching must be done at a pace that doesn’t afford Garcia the time to cover and counter and he must keep Danny fighting under duress for most of the round, and sustain that for all twelve rounds because this one most likely goes the distance.

With Garcia knowing Porter is going to be on the attack, he has a few decisions to make once he’s in there and has a better idea on how he measures up with Porter physically. The crucial thing will be the read Garcia gets when he feels Porter’s power. Shawn is strong but he’s not a guy that has single-shot fight-altering power, and if Danny feels he can live with anything Porter lands, he’ll take more chances and try to blunt his aggression. And if by chance he can get Porter to slow down in his trek to get inside, then Garcia can change things up and won’t be punching out of urgency. The other option Garcia has is the tactic in which he gives the anticipated ground that Porter is going to look to take and then counters him between his shots. Once inside, Porter is open up the middle because he tends to load up and punches wide with his head down, leaving him vulnerable to Garcia’s uppercut.

Like most fights at the highest level in boxing, especially when it doesn’t appear that either guy has guns big enough to get the other out, it’ll come down to who executes best and who’s scoring it. Porter is a worker and often looks like he’s doing more damage than he actually is, so the judges may give him credit for aggression even though he might not be terribly effective as far as landing clean and crisply.

If there ever was a 50-50 fight it’s Garcia vs. Porter this weekend. They have contrasting styles and the edge the stronger fighter has is evened out by the other being a better technician who is less likely to stray from who he is. This one may really come down to which of the two is more composed under fire along with who has the most big moments because it’s doubtful either one can sustain bettering the other for a majority of the fight.

Porter no doubt believes he can blast his way past Garcia. Danny, in turn, sees Porter as being made for him stylistically and is confident he’ll be able to use Porter’s aggression against him. And that’s not such a huge reach and the onus is on Porter to disrupt that.

Earlier this week Garcia said something that I really think is a window into his mindset. “If you’re throwing, it’s got to be effective,” he said. “Volume punches aren’t always effective. I’m the sharper boxer, cleaner puncher. That’s my style, and I throw a lot of punches too. I throw more than 600 punches a fight. That’s a lot.” In a very subtle way Garcia said that he sees Porter as a reckless attacker who misses a lot of punches and will be right in front of him to counter, and if he has to pick it up and initiate the action, he’s good.

Porter needs to do what Frazier did against Quarry, and that’s make Garcia fight bell-to-bell with a sense of urgency and when he slows from the pace and needs a breather, make him pay for not offering the resistance he did when he was fresh. On the other hand, Garcia has to do what Quarry couldn’t, and that’s give Porter a reason to impede his aggression and then capitalize with his greater accuracy and hand-speed when Shawn starts to wind down.

It’s impossible to say with impunity the counter-puncher holds the edge over the swarmer or vice versa. If Porter is an elite attacker, Garcia shouldn’t have anything to counter because he’ll be fighting with the purpose of just trying to tread water to keep from drowning in order to stay in the fight. But if Garcia can take advantage of his quicker and more accurate hands, that could be enough to impede Shawn’s aggression, and if Garcia can do that, he wins.

Garcia has always kind of gotten the advantage in decisions, and Porter tends to be kind of a hard luck fighter, so my inclination is Garcia edges out the win by decision.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 81: Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy, ‘J-Rock’ and More

David A. Avila

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Stacked cars block the long entrance to Robert Garcia Boxing Academy where many of the best prizefighters in the Southwest prepare.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and the first shift has arrived.

Just last weekend two RGBA-trained fighters Hector Tanajara Jr. and Joshua Franco returned to their native area San Antonio, Texas and showed off their fighting skills polished in the hills of Riverside, California. It’s a human factory of prizefighters of all sizes and ethnicities.

Trainer Robert Garcia, with help from his sons, runs the sizeable gym that includes three boxing rings like a choreographer. He doesn’t need charts or tablets, he simply directs the fighters to the ring and tells them the number of rounds they will be trading punches.

Gabriel Flores Jr. of Stockton is chosen to open up the sparring. He’s a 19-year-old speedy lightweight from Stockton, Calif. and so far has remained undefeated after 16 pro bouts.

First to spar with the Stockton fighter was Saul “Neno” Rodriguez, the slim power-punching super featherweight from Riverside. Early in his career he was trained by Garcia, first in Oxnard, then, when the Riverside operation was opened, he made the transition too. For more than two years Rodriguez had trained elsewhere but has returned to the Garcia machine. It’s hard to get better training.

Flores and Rodriguez sparred for multiple rounds of action that featured what each fighter does best. One is a counter-puncher and the other stalks and punishes. One utilizes speed and agility to offset attacks and the other pressures and pursues while looking for openings and mistakes.

It’s a perfect mesh of styles.

Next up was Luis Coria another lightweight with speed and aggressiveness like a wound-up top.

Coria was scheduled to fight Adam Lopez last November in Las Vegas, but when the main event featuring former WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez fell out due to the opponent weighing 10 pounds over the limit, Lopez was asked to step in. That left Coria without an opponent.

“He was well paid to step aside,” said Robert Garcia trainer and manager for Coria.

That night Lopez impressed the boxing world by flooring Valdez although eventually losing by stoppage. That could have been Coria. No problem, he will be fighting soon enough.

Coria sparred several rounds with Flores and both showed speed and a contrast in styles.

The gym always operates at crank level and somebody is always preparing for the next big fight. Coming up soon will be WBC and WBO super lightweight titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez who will be traveling to China to defend against Viktor Postol on Feb. 2.

Later in February, Mikey Garcia returns to the ring for the first time since last March. The former featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, and super lightweight titlist is set to meet former super lightweight and welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas on Feb. 29, at Frisco, Texas.

Pick any season in the year and RGBA is always humming.

J-Rock

WBA, IBF and IBO super welterweight titlist Julian “J-Rock” Williams (27-1-1, 16 KOs) finally returns to the ring and makes his first defense against Jeison Rosario (19-1-1, 13 KOs) on Saturday Jan. 18, in Philadelphia. FOX will televise.

It’s homecoming for Williams who grabbed the title with a riveting win over former champion Jarrett Hurd in what I felt was the Fight of the Year in 2019. Both engaged in trench warfare and exhibited the beautiful art of inside fighting rarely seen or allowed by trigger-happy referees anxious to create space. Close-quarter fighting takes talent.

Fighting in front of friends and family can be pretty stressful. Philadelphia is a true fight town and it could be an added distraction for Philly boxer J Rock.

“I try to just block myself from the world. Especially with a hometown fight, people are pulling you 50 different ways, tickets, asking me stupid questions. It’s crazy, so I just try to block myself from the world,” said Williams about the upcoming fight with Rosario. “Rosario brings ambition to the table. I think he’s an ambitious kid. I don’t think it’s a difficult fight (for me), to be quite honest. I just think it’s a matter of being focused and on top of my game, and I think I’ll take care of him. I don’t think it’s difficult, though. He’s a decent fighter. We’re not going to make him out to be Ray Robinson.”

Top Rank in NY

If you are one of the many who wondered whatever happened to Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo here’s your chance to watch the former phenom in action as he meets Manuel Rey Rojas (18-3, 5 KOs) at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY. ESPN+ will stream the Top Rank card.

Verdejo (25-1, 16 KOs) fought once in 2019 and defeated cagey veteran Bryan Vasquez by decision last April in New York City. He remains a big draw but since turning pro nearly 10 years ago has failed to live up to expectations as the next Felix Trinidad. There’s only one “Tito” Trinidad.

Rumors abound when it comes to Verdejo who was supposedly involved in a motorcycle accident and other escapades. Life can get in the way. Here he is now 26 years old and looking to conjure up some of that old fervor he had as a teen.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Showtime 7 p.m. Shojahon Ergashev (17-0) vs Adrian Estrella (29-4).

Sat. ESPN 4 p.m. Eleider Alvarez (24-1) vs Michael Seals (24-2); Felix Verdejo (25-1) vs Manuel Rey Rojas (18-3).

Sat. FOX, 5 p.m. Julian Williams (27-1-1) vs Jeison Rosario (19-1-1); Chris Colbert (13-0) vs Jezzrel Corrales (23-3).

Photo: Eduardo Garcia, the Garcia family patriarch, is flanked by sons Robert and Mikey. Photo by Al Applerose.

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Julian “J-Rock” Williams: From a Homeless Teenager to a World Boxing Champ

Arne K. Lang

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Last weekend was a mixed bag for Philadelphia fighters. Undefeated welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis looked sensational on Friday while scoring a fourth-round stoppage of Bakhtiyar Eyubov. The next night, a raggedy performance by Jesse Hart in a super middleweight contest with Joe Smith Jr scraped away some of the city’s prestige as an incubator of great fistic talent. (Thirteen fighters identified with Philadelphia are in the International Boxing Hall of Fame; bet you can’t name seven.)

On Saturday at Philadelphia’s Liacouras Center, WBA/IBF 154-pound world title-holder Julian “J-Rock” Williams (27-1-1, 1 NC, 16 KOs) seeks to right the ship, so to speak, when he opposes Jeison Rosario (19-1-1, 13 KOs) in the first defense of the titles he won from Jarrett Hurd last May in one of the most entertaining fights of 2019. It’s a homecoming for Williams, 29, who trains at the James Shuler Memorial Gym, named for the former middleweight contender who died at age 26 in a 1986 motorcycle accident. “J-Rock” last fought in Philly in 2011 at a small show at a National Guard armory when he was still a 6-round fighter.

Williams, like so many professional boxers, had a rough upbringing. According to an article by Frank Fitzpatrick in the Philadelphia Inquirer, during his school days Williams lived in an old motel that had been converted into a homeless shelter. His mother battled substance abuse and his father was in prison.

The shelter was located a long distance from his high school, Overbrook, in gritty West Philadelphia. Getting there required a trip on two buses sandwiched around a ride on the “el” train.

The faculty at Overbrook High School, who work in a 95-year-old building, face all the challenges that are endemic to inner-city schools populated by students from economically disadvantaged homes. But the school is famous because of the achievements of certain alumni. The great NBA player Wilt Chamberlain went to Overbrook High, as did the actor Will Smith and Guion S. Bluford Jr, America’s first African-American astronaut. If “J-Rock” can keep winning, he may etch his name on that roster.

Williams will go to post a big favorite over Rosario, a 24-year-old Miami-based fighter from the Dominican Republic. They have a common opponent in Nathaniel Gallimore who was out-pointed by Williams after previously saddling Rosario with his lone defeat (TKO by 6). Rosario got this coming assignment when Jarrett Hurd changed his mind, declining a rematch with Williams after initially activating his rematch clause. (Hurd has a stay-busy fight later this month on the undercard of the Danny Garcia vs. Ivan Redkach bout at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.)

Williams vs. Rosario will air on FOX and FOX Deportes as part of a triple-header. In the co-feature, 23-year-old Brooklyn super featherweight Chris Colbert (13-0, 5 KOs) is matched against Panamanian southpaw Jezzrel Corrales (23-3, 9 KOs) in a match billed for an interim WBA title. The flashy Colbert, reportedly 103-3 as an amateur, has a big upside if he can improve his punching power.

As for Julian Williams, down the road he figures to meet up with Jermell Charlo who recently recaptured his WBC 154-pound title while avenging a controversial loss to Tony Harrison. Williams’ lone defeat was inflicted by Jermell’s twin brother Jermall Charlo who now competes a weight class up at 160. If that fight materializes, “J-Rock” would be the second person to lock horns with both Charlo twins at the pro level following Austin Trout.

That may be putting the cart before the horse, but Williams, who is a good interview because of his forthrightness, is supremely confident. “I don’t think it’s a difficult fight for me, to be quite honest,” he says. “We’re not going to make (Rosario) out to be (Sugar) Ray Robinson. But he has the ambition to win, so you can’t underestimate him.”

Considering the obstacles that “J-Rock” has already overcome, it would seemingly be foolish to bet against him.

– – –

Philadelphia fighters in the International Boxing Hall of Fame listed in order of their year of induction: Joe Frazier (1990), Tommy Loughran (1991), Philadelphia Jack O’Brien (1991), Joey Giardello (1993), Harold Johnson (1993), Bob Montgomery (1995), Matthew Saad Muhammad (1998), Lew Tendler (1999), Battling Levinsky (2000), Jeff Chandler (2000), Benny Bass (2002), Harry Lewis (2008), Bernard Hopkins (2020).

Photo credit: Darryl Cobb / TGB Promotions

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Tyson Fury’s Daffy Training Regimen has Nat Fleischer Spinning in his Grave

Arne K. Lang

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The late Nat Fleischer, the co-founder and publisher of The Ring magazine, the self-proclaimed Bible of Boxing, was regarded in his day as the world’s foremost authority on all things fistic.

In addition to looking after his monthly magazine, Fleischer wrote many books. Most were small biographies of famous fighters but there were also instructional manuals for boys and young men interested in learning the science of pugilism. In fact, Fleischer’s first book was a training manual. First published in 1929, “Training for Boxers” (with a foreword by Jack Dempsey) sold more than one million copies at $1 each according to Fleischer’s 1972 obit in the New York Times.

Fleischer’s three “how to” books for aspiring boxers were heavy on the importance of leading a virtuous life outside the ring. Don’t masturbate, he commanded his readers. Masturbation, in Fleischer’s view, was the scourge of civilization.

The same admonition against “self-abuse” was found in the Boy Scouts Handbook. British military officer Lord Robert Baden-Powell, credited with founding the world-wide Boy Scouts movement, also railed against this temptation. The son of a clergyman, Baden-Powell didn’t invent the popular saying “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” but, among other things, His Lordship believed that excessive masturbation led to idiocy.

If that were true, that doesn’t bode well for Tyson Fury (insert your own joke here). At Monday’s press conference in Los Angeles, Fury said that as part of his preparation for his rematch with Deontay Wilder, he would be masturbating seven times a day. “I have to keep my testosterone pumping,” said Fury by way of explanation.

Fury’s impulsion flouts conventional wisdom. Old-time trainers believed that masturbation and sex in general were to be avoided in the days preceding a fight. Celibacy was useful for keeping a fighter focused on the task at hand and the retention of semen was thought to be useful for keeping a boxer on edge so that when the battle commenced, he had a reservoir of pent-up energy ready to be unleashed.

It was written that Primo Carnera’s trainers tied a string around his penis when he went to bed at night to keep him from having a wet dream. Like so much that was written about the Ambling Alp, this was assuredly nonsense. However, fanciful yarns like this exposed the mindset of many old trainers whose philosophies, however quaint, were passed on to future generations of boxers and trainers including some who are active today.

Muhammad Ali said that he stopped having sex six weeks before a fight. Freddie Roach has been quoted as saying that he exhorts his fighters to “practice discipline” for 10 days before a bout. This was never an issue with Manny Pacquiao who reportedly adhered to a higher standard, eschewing sex for 21 days.

David Haye, who held world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight before retiring in 2018, remains active in the sport as a manager and promoter. When it comes to his views on getting ready for a fight, the “Hayemaker” is a throwback.

I don’t ejaculate for six weeks before the fight. No sex, no masturbation, no nothing. It releases too much tension. It releases a lot of minerals and nutrients that your body needs, and it releases them cheaply. – David Haye

 For the record, although the evidence is slim, Haye’s beliefs lack scientific support. In fact, a 1999 Italian study found that testosterone levels actually increase as sexual activity increases.

That finding suggests, egads, that the Gypsy King may actually be on to something. However, the view from here is that whether Tyson Fury masturbates 70 times a day, if that were humanly possible, or masturbates not at all, it won’t matter a bit if Deontay Wilder lands his Sunday punch flush on his jaw. He’s going down and the ghost of Nat Fleischer will then hover over the ring and bellow, “I told you so, you big lug, now go home and be a good role model and from now on keep your hands away from that appendage in your quiet hours.”

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