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Boxing’s Best P4P in a Snapshot in Time

Ted Sares

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These days, more and more people seem to be living in the moment and that might be especially appropriate for boxing fans. Any list of so-called “best” fighters might have looked a certain way last week and then change tomorrow. However, today it just might look like this:

1. Vasiliy “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko. Lightweight 11-1-0 (9 KOs): Lomachenko is an improved version of Floyd Mayweather Jr. He trains uniquely and does things in the ring seldom seen before. That’s why his nickname is “Hi-Tech.” Said Loma recently, “My father explained to me that money can end tomorrow, but with history they will not forget you. That’s why, for me, boxing is a sport and not a business.

2. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Middleweight 50-1-2 (34 KOs): A grizzled veteran at a young age who does it all. His two close matches with Gennady Golovkin answered many questions, especially about his chin. And with his latest financial deal, he can afford all of the Kobe beef he wants.

3. Terence “Bud” Crawford Jr. Welterweight 33-0-0 (24 KOs): Moving up quickly with spectacular and dramatic knockouts, he has an uncanny ability to read his opponent, adjust if required, and then take control of the fight. Many think he should be number one on the lists of best boxers.

4. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Middleweight 38-1-1 (34 KOs): He came this close to beating Canelo twice, but must now step it up because his aura of invincibility has been pierced and Father Time lurks. A rematch with Daniel Jacobs would tell us all we need to know.

5. Oleksandr Usyk. Cruiserweight 15-0-0 (11 KOs): Still another outstanding Ukrainian fighter with superb technical skills, but are they enough to allow him to compete with the heavyweights? The fact that Usyk as an amateur won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, as well as bronze and gold at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships, all in the heavyweight division, suggests that they might be.

6. Mikey Garcia. Lightweight 39-0-0 (30 KOs): The complete package and quintessential boxer/puncher who relies on a mastery of the fundamentals to win and win and win. However, he must be careful of that dangerous inflection point where more money meets the risk of moving up in weight class.

7. Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. Welterweight 24-0-0 (21 KOs): Like Crawford, he has a mean streak once the bell rings and will beat his opponent’s body until he can close matters. He has remarkable athletic skills but his level of opposition seems to be a bit out of sync with the high praise. Time will tell sooner rather than later, but he is a heavy load.

8. Naoya “Monster” Inoue. Bantamweight 16-0-0 (14 KOs): His nickname says it all. He really is a “monster.” A mini-Godzilla who ends fights upstairs and downstairs in highlight reel fashion. Kalle Sauerland, the German promoter, says, “I’m convinced he’s not only the number one power puncher in Japan, Asia or America, he’s the best on the planet”. That’s why he needs to showcase his stuff outside of Japan more often.

9. Anthony “AJ” Joshua. Heavyweight 21-0-0 (20 KOs): Best of the big guys who exploits his opponents weaknesses and then closes like a thunder clap. He defends with aplomb and hits with asunder. He also holds three of the four major world heavyweight championship belts. To their credit, others are sorting things out by fighting each other in order to get a chance to fight AJ before 90,000 plus rabid fans at Wembley. AJ is an “event fighter.” When he fights, it’s a major event in the UK—and possibly even an opportunity for his opponents to earn an early retirement payday.

10. Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Junior Bantamweight 47-4-1 (41 KOs): The new “kid” on the block who gives every indication of sticking around for a while. He has won twenty straight and forty-six of his last forty-seven. He has duked in Japan (where he suffered three of his four defeats in the beginning of his career), Mexico, New York City, and Los Angeles. Look for this Thai to gain gravitas and big paydays as he beats more name opponents.

Lists, by their very nature, are always subject to criticism and attack and this one is probably no exception. Manny Pacquiao fans will ask why he is not on the list and so will those who follow Russians Artur Beterbiev and Dimitry Bivol  Ukrainian fans—at the risk of becoming somewhat greedy– will want more representation in the form of the “Nail,” Oleksandr Gvozdyk, but first he must hammer dangerous Adonis Stevenson in December. Miguel Berchelt and Rey Vargas have Mexican aficionados cheering as does Leo Santa Cruz, while Carl Frampton gets raves in Ireland. Daniel Jacobs, Gervonta Davis, Jermell Charlo, Demetrius Andrade, and Keith Thurman have Americans piqued with interest and Callum Smith has suddenly hit the scene. Isaac Dogboe is the latest Ghanaian to attract notice. Finally, Thai minimum weight Wanheng Menayothin is 51-0 but he has not fought anyone of note.  And oh, yes, Deontay Wilder is not exactly of the P4P type but his awkward style and incredible power could allow him to be on top of his own list.

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active full power lifters and Strongman competitors. He is a member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

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NEWS FLASH: Leon Spinks Hospitalized; Reportedly Fighting for His Life

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The gossip site TMZ is reporting that Leon Spinks is hospitalized in Las Vegas and is fighting for his life. TMZ acquired this information from Spinks’ wife Brenda Glur Spinks after spying her social media post. “It’s been a tough year for us,” she wrote. “Leon has endured a lot of medical problems. I’m reaching to ask that you pray for my Beautiful Husband Leon. So that he may overcome the obstacles that crossed his path.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Leon’s son Leon Spinks III who posted this message on his facebook page: “My Dad isn’t doing so good now and his wife Brenda Glur Spinks and I ask that u pray that he weather’s this storm. My dad is all I have left and I really appreciate it if yall let God know that he is not in this battle alone.”

A gold medal winner at the 1976 Olympics, Spinks, 66, is best remembered for upsetting Muhammad Ali in 1978 to win the world heavyweight title. He lost the title back to Ali in his next fight.

This is a developing story. As new details emerge, we will share them with you.

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Arne K. Lang

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Crawford-Kavaliauskas is the Main Go, but ‘The Takeover’ is the Stronger Allurement

Terence Crawford puts his undefeated record and his WBO welterweight title on the line Saturday when he opposes Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden on ESPN. Kavaliauskas is no slouch. The two-time Olympian for Lithuania is also undefeated (21-0-1, 17 KOs), but Crawford is so highly regarded that he is a massive favorite.

If one were arranging the bouts according to the degree of intrigue, using the odds as the barometer, Crawford vs Kavaliauskas wouldn’t sit atop the marquee. That honor would go the IBF lightweight title fight between Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez. Moreover, it’s a fair guess that if this fight were to fall out (perish the thought) it would result in more refunds than if Crawford were a late scratch.

The challenger, Lopez, is favored, currently in the vicinity of 9/4, but this is a price that usually translates into a very competitive fight and the stakes are high. The winner will almost assuredly advance to a rich engagement with Vasiliy Lomachenko who holds the other three meaningful 135-pound title belts

Commey (29-2, 26 KOs) won the IBF lightweight title – it was conveniently vacant – with a second-round stoppage of Russia’s Isa Chaniev and stopped Raymundo Beltran in eight rounds in his first title defense. Commey dominated both fights, scoring seven knockdowns in all, but the Russian was a sad excuse for a world title challenger and Beltran, although a solid pro, was past his prime at age 38.

Commey’s two losses came in back-to-back fights in 2016 and both were by split decision. He lost to Robert Easter Jr in Reading, Pennsylvania, and then, eight weeks later, was upended by Denis Shafikov before a tiny crowd at an actual boxing gym in Moscow.

There was nothing controversial about those losses, but in both instances Commey was in hostile territory. Toledo’s Easter brought a large delegation of fans to Reading and Shafikov was fighting on his home turf. The crowd on Saturday will almost assuredly be skewed against Commey again, but it won’t be as pronounced. Commey, born and raised in Ghana, has a home in the Bronx. Lopez was born in Brooklyn, a bond that his Brooklyn-born promoter Bob Arum likes to emphasize, but grew up in Davie, Florida.

Teofimo

At age 22, Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) is almost 10 years younger than Richard Commey. A year ago, at this very venue, he scored his most memorable triumph, a highlight-reel, 44-second, one-punch knockout of Mason Menard that was named the TSS Knockout of the Year. He has won three fights in the interim, most recently a 12-round decision over Masayoshi Nakatani.

Teofimo won comfortably on the scorecards, but his performance left much to be desired. The Japanese was a tall, rangy fighter. In Richard Commey, he is meeting a man of similar height. Both are listed at five-foot-eight.

Lopez has developed a large following in a short time and his in-ring heroics are only part of the story. He’s quite the showman. After each win he adds an exclamation point with a celebratory back-flip and outside the ring his brash persona has enhanced his notoriety.

When a fighter has a common surname, it helps to have a unique first name. The reality is that Lopez would not have built his brand as fast if his first name had been, say, Miguel, or Carlos, or Juan. And he had the foresight to supplement his unique first name with a unique nickname: The Takeover.

The nickname, says Lopez, doesn’t just refer to taking over a specific weight division (he’ll move up to 140 before the year 2020 is over) but, rather, taking over the whole sport in the sense of becoming boxing’s biggest pay-per-view attraction. Early into his pro career, he began calling out Lomachenko.

Teofimo’s biggest cheerleader is his Honduras-born father and trainer of the same name and the elder Lopez has even more hubris than his son. “My son is too strong for Lomachenko….he would walk through anything that Lomechenko throws at him,” Teofimo Sr. told veteran boxing writer Bill Tibbs prior to his son’s match with Mason Menard. “Liston, he has God-given gifts and he’s simply the best out there. (My son) has the best parts of Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, GGG, Floyd, Andre Ward, all the best of them in him.”

The Lopez that defeated Nakatani would not have defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko. And there are those that think he won’t beat Richard Commey unless he brings his “A’ game. It’s an interesting fight.

—–

The main fights on Saturday’s Top Rank boxing card will air on ESPN’s flagship station. The boxing card, which opens with the rematch between Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin, follows the show in which the Heisman Trophy is presented to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The Heisman telecast will begin at 8 pm EST.

The same situation prevailed last year when Top Rank’s Madison Square Garden card was headlined by the fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza. To the consternation of diehard boxing fans, the Heisman presentation show ran late. Don’t be surprised if it happens again.

Photo credit: Stacy Verbeek

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Will U.S. Olympic Boxers Fare Better in Tokyo Thanks to Yesterday’s Ruling?

Arne K. Lang

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The road to the medal round for U.S. boxers at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics just got easier. But maybe not.

“Russia Banned From The Tokyo Olympics” screamed yesterday’s headline, but reading between the lines there’s more to the story. A more carefully worded headline would have read “Russian Olympic Athletes in Limbo.”

We have been down this road before. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, recommended banning Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The agency accused Russian authorities of a massive cover-up that erased hundreds of positive test samples.

WADA then did something of an about-face and decided to evaluate each case individually. Ultimately, 278 Russian athletes were approved to compete in Rio; 111 were denied. All 11 Russian boxers who survived the various qualifying events made the cut.

This new ban (which will be appealed) also emanates from WADA which alleges that the Russian authorities continued the massive cover-up using the “disappearance methodology.” But, if upheld, it’s a more severe penalty in that it bans Russia from major international sporting events for the next four years. That would include the World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world by far. The next edition of the World Cup is slated for 2022 in Qatar.

“There’s still…the possibility of clean athletes to compete in the Games,” Svetlana Romashina, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in synchronized swimming, told Moscow correspondent Andrew Roth of The Guardian. “I believe the punishment of clean athletes to be unacceptable,” continued Romashina. “We have done nothing wrong.”

The reality, as it now stands, is that Russian boxers and other Russian athletes, if deemed clean, will be able to compete in Tokyo, just not under the Russian banner. As is common in some wrestling tournaments, their affiliation will be “unattached.” And Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a big fan of amateur boxing and other combat sports, won’t be there. The ban prohibits Russian officials from attending major international sporting events if their team has been expelled.

—–

Historically, the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team has excelled in the Summer Games. But that’s yesterday’s news. In the last three Olympics, U.S. male boxers won only three medals, one silver and two bronze. By contrast, during the same period, Russian boxers walked off with 10 medals including three gold.

The prognosis for the 2020 U.S. team looked dim once again when the U.S. contingent earned only one medal (a silver by lightweight Keyshawn Davis) at the recent AIBA men’s World Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia. The host team garnered four medals, including three gold. If one conjoined the Russian squad with former Soviet Union satellites Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the count grows to seven gold medals (of a possible eight) and 15 medals overall.

Russia’s gold medalists at the World Championships were welterweight Andrey Zamkovoy (pictured), middleweight Gleb Bakshi, and heavyweight Muslim Gadzhimagomedov. Zamkovoy and the heavyweight (who will badly need a new name if he ever turns pro) are outstanding amateurs and may have been favored to win their divisions in Tokyo.

Zamkovoy, 32, represented Russia in the 2012 and 2016 Games and medaled in 2012 where he defeated Errol Spence Jr en route to the semi-finals. The heavyweight (a cruiserweight by pro standards) is an ever-improving, 22-year-old, six-foot-four southpaw who has already amassed an amateur record of 60-5.

The competition for the U.S. team at overseas tournaments has gotten a lot tougher in the last two decades as several Eastern European countries have become more like Cuba, investing state resources into their amateur boxing programs with an eye to building a powerhouse. Perhaps the WADA edict will aid the U.S. boxing team in shaking the doldrums in 2020, but that assumption seems premature.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

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