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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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Remembering Oscar ‘Shotgun’ Albarado (1948-2021)

Arne K. Lang

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Former world junior middleweight champion Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado passed away on Feb. 17 at age 72 in a nursing home in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas. Albarado’s death didn’t go unnoticed in the town that he put on the sporting map, but news out of Uvalde appears to travel to the outside world by Pony Express. There’s been no notice of it in the boxing press; even the authoritative boxrec has yet to acknowledge his passing. This isn’t uncommon. A boxer has a high probability of dying in obscurity, even if he had a large fan base during his heyday.

The folks in Uvalde had a big shindig to honor Albarado after he won the title; a barbecue at the fairgrounds. “All Texas and especially the city of Uvalde share pride in your accomplishments,” read a proclamation from the Governor of Texas, Dolph Briscoe.

The date was June 20, 1974. Sixteen days earlier, Albarado had wrested the 154-pound title from Koichi Wajima in Tokyo. Down two points on two of the scorecards through the 14 completed rounds, Albarado took the bout out of the judges hands, knocking Wajima down three times and out in the final stanza.

It was a long road to Tokyo. An eight-year pro, Oscar had at least 55 pro fights under his belt when he was granted a crack at the title. As he was scaling the ladder with occasional missteps, he became a fan favorite at the Olympic Auditorium, the shrine of Mexican-American boxing in L.A. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Albarado’s parents were migrant farm workers. They spent a portion of each year picking sugar beets in Minnesota. The kids went along with them. Albarado was purportedly six years old when he first worked in the fields.

He was 17 years old when he had his first documented fight, a 4-rounder in San Antonio, but there are some reports that say he was fighting in Mexico when he was as young as 15.

Albarado became a local attraction in South Texas and then spread his wings, moving to Los Angeles where there was better sparring and boxers of Mexican extraction were a more highly-valued commodity. He was backed by LA fight functionary Harry Kabakoff, a wheeler-dealer who knew all the right people. A colorful character, Kabakoff, born Melville Himmelfarb (don’t ask) had struck it big with bantamweight Jesus “Little Poison” Pimentel, a boxer he discovered while living in Mexicali.

Billed as the Uvalde Shotgun and eventually as just Shotgun Albarado, Oscar had his first fight at the Olympic on Jan. 9, 1969, and four more fights there in the next three months. He lost the last of the five and with it his undefeated record to Hedgemon Lewis who out-pointed him in a 10-round fight. There was no shame in losing to Hedgemon, an Eddie Futch fighter who went on to become a world title-holder.

Albarado was back at the Olympic before the year was out. All told, he had 17 fights at the fabled South Grand Street arena, going 13-3-1. His other losses came at the hands of Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez (L UD 10) and Dino Del Cid.

Del Cid, dressed with a 29-8-2 record, was a Puerto Rican from the streets of New York or a Filipino, depending on which LA newspaper one chose to read. Apprised that Albarado was a slow starter, he came out slugging. A punch behind the ear knocked Albarado woozy and the ref stepped in and stopped it. It was all over in 81 seconds.

Oscar demanded a rematch and was accommodated. Six weeks later, he avenged the setback in grand style, decking Del Cid three times in the opening stanza and knocking him down for the count in the following round with his “shotgun,” his signature left hook.

As the house fighter, Albarado got the benefit of the doubt when he fought Thurman Durden in January of 1973. The decision that went his way struck many as a bit of a gift. But the same thing had happened to him in an earlier fight when he opposed fast-rising welterweight contender Armando Muniz.

As popular as Alvarado was at the Olympic, his pull paled beside that of young Muniz. Born in Mexico but a resident of Los Angeles from the age of six, Muniz attended UCLA on a wrestling scholarship before finishing his studies at a commuter school and had represented the United States in the 1968 Olympics while serving in the Army.

Muniz vs. Alvarado was a doozy. We know that without seeing the fight as we have the empirical evidence in the form of the description of the scene at the final bell; appreciative fans showered the ring with coins. The verdict, a draw, met with the approval of the folks in the cheap seats, but ringside reporters were of the opinion that “Shotgun” was wronged. The LA Times correspondent had it 7-2-1 for the Texan.

Oscar had two more fights after avenging his loss to Del Cid before heading off to Tokyo to meet the heavily-favored Wajima who was making the seventh defense of his 154-pound title. Two more trips to Tokyo would follow in quick succession.

Albarado made the first defense of his newly-acquired belt against Ryu Sorimachi. He stopped him in the seventh round, putting him down three times before the match was halted. Three-and-a-half months later, he gave the belt back to Wajima, losing a close but unanimous decision in their rematch.

Oscar quit the sport at this juncture, returning to Uvalde. He was in good shape financially. He had used his earnings from his Olympic Auditorium fights to open a gas station. With the Tokyo money, he expanded his holdings by purchasing a laundromat.

This would be a nice place to wrap up this story. Former Austin American-Statesman sportswriter Jack Cowan, a Uvalde native, recalled that when Oscar opened his service station, he gave his new customers an autographed photo of himself in a boxing pose inscribed with the words “Oscar Albarado: The Next World Champion.” He would make that dream become a reality, defying the odds, while breaking the cycle of poverty in his family. Boxing was the steppingstone to a better life for him and his children.

But ending the story right here would be disingenuous. This is boxing, after all, and when the life story of a prominent boxer comes fully into a focus, a feel-good story usually takes a wrong turn.

Oscar got the itch to fight again. Sixty-seven months after walking away from boxing, he resumed his career with predictable results. He was only 34 when he returned to the ring, but he was a shell of his former self, an old 34.

Albarado was knocked out in five of his last seven fights before leaving the sport for good with a record of 57-13-1 (43 KOs). He made his final appearance in Denmark, the adopted home of double-tough Ayub Kalule who whacked him out in the second round.

Albarado’s obituary in the Uvalde paper was uncharacteristically blunt. “He suffered from pugilistic dementia,” it said, “caused by repeated concussive and sub-concussive blows.”

There was no sugar-coating there, no Parkinson’s to obfuscate the truth.

If he had known the fate that awaited him, would he have still chosen the life of a prizefighter? That’s not for us to say, but author Tris Dixon, while researching his new book, spoke to a bunch of neurologically damaged fighters and almost to a man they said they would do it all over again.

Albarado had four children, three sons and a daughter. When he was elected to the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017, he was too decrepit to travel, but all four of his children — Oscar Jr, Emmanuel, Jacob, and Angela — made the trip to North Hollywood to accept the award on his behalf.

The kids were proud of their old man, a feeling that did not dissipate as he became incapacitated. If boxing was helpful in tightening the bond, then it’s a fair guess the Uvalde Shotgun had no regrets.

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Brandon Figueroa KOs Nery and Danny Roman Wins Too

David A. Avila

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LOS ANGELES-Brandon Figueroa took the air out of Mexico’s Luis Nery to win by knockout and unify the WBA and WBC super bantamweight titles on Saturday. It was a belly buster that did the job.

Texan Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) set out to prove that Tijuana’s two-division world champion Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) could not endure a toe-to-toe battle with the bigger guys and he proved it before several thousand fans at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

It was a back-and-forth battle that saw Nery attack the body and head while Figueroa focused on winging big blows from a distance and in close. Many of the rounds were extremely close to score.

When Nery was able to battle from a distance and dive inside, he seemed the much more athletic between the two champions. But Figueroa just seemed stronger and unfazed by any of the Mexican fighter’s blows.

Though Figueroa absorbed a lot of punishment, he never seemed in trouble. When Nery connected with a several combinations in the fifth round by landing five-punch and three-punch combinations, it looked like he was taking control.

He did not.

Figueroa opened the sixth round with two left hook blasts that reminded Nery that the taller Texan had a punch. When Nery tried to rally with his own blasts, Figueroa slipped under back-to-back left hooks. It seemed to change the tide.

“I knew he was getting tired,” said Figueroa. “He was trying to box me.”

In the seventh round Figueroa was able to connect with a left hook and followed up with a lead right. Nery countered with a three-punch combination that was met with Figueroa countering with a three-punch combination to the head and body. Then both fighters exchanged inside and Figueroa connected with a right to the chest and a left uppercut to the solar plexus and down went Nery.

Nery could not beat referee Tom Taylor’s count and was counted out at 2:18 of the seventh round.

Figueroa is now the WBC and WBA super bantamweight unified champion.

“It feels amazing,” said Figueroa. “I know everyone doubted me.”

Roman Wins Super Bantam Eliminator

Los Angeles-based Danny Roman (29-3-1, 10 KOs) battered Mexico’s Ricardo Espinoza (25-4, 21 KOs) to win convincingly by unanimous decision after 10 rounds in a super bantamweight fight.

After a slow start Roman began to out-maneuver the heavy-punching Espinoza and found openings for left uppercuts. Boy did he find openings.

“I concentrated on finding my distance,” said Roman.

Roman snapped Espinoza’s head back so many times it seemed that the Mexican fighter would not be able to last the full 10 rounds. But like most Mexican fighters he would not quit.

Espinoza tried every move in his catalogue but nothing worked against the superb technique used by Roman, who formerly held the IBF and WBA super bantamweight world titles. It was a perfect example of technical prowess defeating raw power.

The uppercut was the chosen weapon of choice and Roman exhibited how to throw it from various positions and angles. It landed perfectly every time as if targeted by a laser. Espinoza never could avoid the uppercut.

During the last three rounds Espinoza’s face was bloody and battered while Roman looked as if he were merely sparring. The end seemed near but the fighter from Tijuana battled until the final bell.

“I thought he was going to go down,” said Roman. “But he had a big heart.”

All three judges scored it for Roman at 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

“It’s a step closer to getting back my titles,” said Roman who lost the titles to Murodjon Akhmadaliev a year ago by split decision. “I’m here to fight the best.”

Martinez Beats Burgos

Sacramento’s Xavier Martinez (16-0, 11 KOs) discovered that Tijuana’s Juan Carlos Burgos (34-5-2, 21 KOs) still has plenty of fight remaining and showed it with a gutsy 10 rounds of back-and-forth battering. Still, Martinez won by unanimous decision though every round was competitive.

Boy was it competitive.

Martinez, 23, had a 10-year advantage in youth but was unable to convince Burgos. Every round saw savage combinations connect by each fighter, but the judges all felt that the Sacramento fighter was superior. All three scored it 99-91 for Martinez. The crowd booed the decision.

“I was landing the cleaner shots,” said Martinez. “He’s a tough competitor.”

Other Results

A super lightweight match saw Jose Valenzuela (8-0) knock out Nelson Hampton (7-4) in the first round.

Gabriela Fundora (1-0) won her pro debut by unanimous decision over Jazmin Valverde (2-2) in a four round flyweight match. Fundora is the sister of super welterweight contender Sebastian Fundora.

A lightweight bout was won by Justin Cardona (5-0) by first round knockout of James De Herrera (4-7).

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Buatsi Flattens Dos Santos in Manchester; Charr KOs Fraudulent Lovejoy in Cologne

Arne K. Lang

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In a Knockout of the Year candidate, rising light heavyweight contender Joshua Buatsi (14-0, 12 KOs) leveled Daniel Blenda Dos Santos, an unheralded Frenchman, in the fourth round, closing the show with a pulverizing right hand – and for good measure, touching him with another right as he fell. A 2016 Olympic bronze medalist for England, the Ghana-born Buatsi trained for two months in the California Bay Area under his new trainer Virgil Hunter and his American sojourn paid dividends.

Dos Santos, who found his way to boxing after serving three-and-a-half years in prison, was undefeated (15-0, 8 KOs) coming in, but hadn’t fought beyond six rounds. He was knocked down earlier in the fight with a chopping right hand. There were less than 20 seconds remaining in the fourth when Buatsi put Dos Santos to sleep, and to his credit he did not celebrate but consoled his distraught victim.

Other Bouts

In a shocker, 31-year-old southpaw Jason Cunningham improved to 29-6 (6) with a unanimous decision over Gamal Yafai (18-2) who was making the first defense of the European bantamweight title that he won in Milan.

Cunningham had Yafai on the canvas three times — knocking him down with left hands in the second, fourth and sixth rounds — but Yafai, the younger brother of former 115-pound world title-holder Kal Yafai — wasn’t deterred and kept coming forward. In the end, however, Cunningham’s lead was too big for Yafai to overcome. The judges had it 115-110 and 114-111 x2 for the southpaw who was a consensus 10/1 underdog.

Super middleweight Lerrone Richards breezed to a lopsided 12-round decision over Italian veteran Giovanni DeCarolis to snatch a vacant European title. Trained by Dave Coldwell, who previously handled Tony Bellew, Richards was content to rack up points and the one-dimensional DeCarolis, who was making his first start in 23 months, had no way to stop him.

The judges had it 120-108 and 119-109 twice. The London-born Richards, whose family roots are in Ghana, improved to 15-0 (3). This may have been the last rodeo for the 36-year-old DeCarolis who fell to 28-10-1.

Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy (18-2, 9 KOs) was fed a softie for his first defense of his European cruiserweight title in the form of 36-year-old Romanian Alexandru Jur who brought a 19-4 record but had defeated only four men with winning records. Except for a few brief moments, Jur showed little inclination to mix it up. McCarthy put Jur down with a body punch in round four and finished him off two rounds later with another body punch. The official time was 2:09.

McCarthy, who is of Irish and Jamaican descent, moves on to a date with fellow Brit Chris Billam-Smith. Jur lost for the fourth time in his last six starts.

Cologne

Credit Christopher Lovejoy for having the gumption to defy Don King who threatened legal action if Lovejoy went ahead with his match today with WBA “champion in recess” Mahmoud (Manuel) Charr. But the 37-year-old Lovejoy, who arrived in Germany all by himself, traveled a long way to destroy whatever credibility he may have had. Fighting off the grid, he had rung up 19 fast knockouts in 19 fights against 19 presumptive Tijuana taxi drivers.

Carrying 306 ½-pounds, the six-foot-five Lovejoy lasted less than two full rounds against Charr who was making his first ring appearance in 42 months. Lovejoy was counted out after being dropped with a volley of punches in the second round.

Photo credit: Mark Robinson / Matchroom

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