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A Tactical Change Paid Dividends for Canelo Alvarez vs. GGG

This past Saturday night Canelo Alvarez 50-1-2 (34) won a majority decision (114-114 and 115-113 twice) over Gennady Golovkin 38-1-1 (33) to capture Golovkin’s

Frank Lotierzo

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This past Saturday night Canelo Alvarez 50-1-2 (34) won a majority decision (114-114 and 115-113 twice) over Gennady Golovkin 38-1-1 (33) to capture Golovkin’s three middleweight title belts at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. And like their first fight last September that ended in a majority draw, the decision has provoked controversy.

The amazing thing about Canelo and GGG is how evenly they’re matched and difficult their fights are to score. I scored the rematch 6-5-1 Canelo, (after seeing the first meeting 8-4 GGG) but it was so close that it could as easily gone to Golovkin by a point. But let’s get one thing clear: This fight was too close to be considered a robbery regardless of who had their hand raised. And when you take into account that Canelo forced Golovkin to fight in retreat, landed the more eye-catching shots, worked his body from the onset, and that Golovkin’s face was much more puffed up and lumpy at the end (although Canelo was cut), no way was the decision in favor of Canelo an injustice.

Stylistically, GGG is an attacker and Canelo is a counter-puncher. However, Canelo answered Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez’s call and didn’t run. No, he didn’t run in the first fight either, but in this fight, unlike the first, Canelo moved forward and initiated the exchanges. Golovkin’s jab, which is always reliable, worked overtime and kept Canelo from owning the exchanges, but like most attackers, GGG can’t hit as hard or be as effective if forced back. And because of that Canelo had no reservation in regards to forcing the fight. So when looking at what stood out the most, it was Canelo’s more imaginative offense and body punching, thus forcing Golovkin to go away from what he’s done best and in every other fight of his career, and that no doubt influenced the judges. Moreover, Golovkin noticeably flinched a few times at feints and was unwilling to pay the price of going to the body entailed to win.

Prior to the rematch it was said in this space how two things would unfold when they met the second time. Quoting from the June 20th TSS preview:

Based on the strategic options for both, Canelo has more room to be better and change things up to level the fight. And then there’s the business side of the equation and I’ve been around too long to fathom that if it’s closer this time GGG will get the decision. A Canelo win sets the rubber match up perfectly because in the eyes of boxing fans and PPV buyers they’ll view them as being 1-1. For the reasons stated above, as much as I’d like to be wrong (and there’s no fun pouring cold water on something so widely anticipated), I don’t think that will be the case. It’s a monumental reach for me to think GGG can win a decision unless he beats Canelo beyond recognition – which I don’t believe he can. Therefore Canelo-GGG goes the distance and Alvarez, being more competitive this time, gets the decision and that sets up the rubber match for Cinco De Mayo weekend 2019.

The fact is, Canelo being the more versatile fighter completely flipped the script after fighting mostly in retreat and with his back to the ropes during most of their first encounter. His aggression and willingness to stand his ground the way GGG did the first time, projected that Canelo was the more willing fighter and he was obviously rewarded for that. Granted, Golovkin really dug down and showed his strong constitution during the second half of the fight after being told by his corner he was losing. He fought a terrific fight, as did Canelo, but it wasn’t enough for GGG because he left too many rounds up for grabs, which was suicide with Canelo forcing the fight.

The result shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, especially since the fight was so close and could come down to whose style you liked better or who you were rooting for. There was no definitive winner of this fight. Sure, a draw would’ve been a fair call. The problem with that, however, is that Team Golovkin knew they had to be more assertive and erase any semblance of doubt this time, due to GGG being excoriated in some circles for not getting off enough in the last bout and never slamming the door to prevent Canelo from tightening the fight with a rally, the way he did down the stretch. This time GGG got off a little more, but that was because he was mostly fighting to prevent Canelo from overwhelming him with his aggression. In a way it’s ironic how Canelo accepted the challenge and fought Golovkin in a more macho way and it knocked Golovkin off his game.

One tries not to be redundant, but like the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB…..boxing is a business and is star driven. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a superstar fighter in the eyes of the boxing establishment and many fans. There’s no guesswork needed to grasp that it’s good for business for him to keep winning. His determination, skill and toughness exhibited against a monster like Golovkin might endear him to fans more than ever. Canelo fought a better fight than the first time and put to rest the rumor that he was aided by PEDS.

The net result is exactly what the boxing establishment, not the fans, needed. And that was a win for Canelo in a fight where it was tough to pick the winner with Canelo acting as more the predator than the prey. By forcing GGG to break more exchanges, working both the body and head, along with never appearing tired or overwhelmed, it was just enough to win the borderline rounds in the eyes of the judges and tilt the fight in his favor. In fact, Golovkin, over Canelo’s protest, had Dave Moretti as a judge for the fight. He was the only judge who scored the first clash for Gennady. And this time he scored it for Canelo and may have tipped his hand when he gave the 12th round to Canelo, perhaps knowing it could swing the fight in his favor….and it did.

This decision cannot be lambasted like others we’ve seen. GGG didn’t suffer a loss of esteem in losing and Canelo finally has a statement win over a marque fighter. They’ll fight a third time and it will be perceived as a rubber match. Golovkin will be almost another year older and less than what he was this past weekend and Canelo will win more conclusively while avoiding the young lions nipping at his heels named Charlo, Saunders and Andrade.

Because boxing is and always has been star driven, Gennady just can’t put enough separation between he and Canelo to get the decision. Their rematch is one of the few fights I’ve seen that really could’ve gone either way – it’s just that a push usually goes to the combatant who is better for business.

The next time there’s a real close fight on paper, and it’s unlikely to end in a knockout or stoppage, you must ask what result better sets up the next big bout. The formula isn’t fool proof. De La Hoya-Trinidad and Pacquiao-Bradley I are glaring exceptions, but more often than not you’ll cash your ticket. In this case a Canelo win sets up fight three more than a Golovkin win would’ve….and knowing GGG won’t walk away from the fortune at stake, he’ll go for it.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. 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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