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Three Punch Combo: An Early Look at Inoue-Donaire and Under the Radar Fights

Matt Andrzejewski

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Inoue vs Donaire

THREE PUNCH COMBO — This past Saturday, Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO’s) punched his ticket to the bantamweight final in the World Boxing Super Series when he impressively knocked out Emmanuel Rodriguez in the second round of their scheduled 12-round fight. The win sets up a showdown with veteran Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO’s) who punched his ticket to the final with an impressive knockout of Stephon Young last month.

As expected, Inoue has opened as a monstrous favorite in the betting markets. While this suggests a one-sided wipeout, I have some other thoughts.

Inoue is pound for pound one of, if not the, hardest puncher in the sport today and put that power on full display in his destruction of Rodriguez in the semi-finals. But having enormous power does not make him indestructible.

In watching that fight against Rodriguez, there were clearly flaws on display on the defensive side of Inoue’s game. For one, Inoue does not move his head at all and as such can be hit. Rodriguez landed several clean punches on Inoue in the first round. And Inoue frequently keeps his hands low looking to bait opponents into throwing to set up counter opportunities. It has worked so far but could be something he pays for down the road.

Donaire is a smart and skilled fighter and though he is 36, his last few fights have shown that he still has plenty left in the tank. Moreover, he possesses one thunderous left hook and has always been at his best when fighting below 122. He has all the capabilities to expose Inoue’s flaws and a left hook that can alter the course of a fight as we have seen him doing plenty of times in the past.

Unlike a lot of people, I do not consider Donaire to be another layup for Inoue. There is real danger in this fight for Inoue if he does not make changes to his game. Donaire has starched big punching rising stars before and I would not discount his chances to expose the significant defensive flaws in Inoue’s game.

 Under The Radar Fight

Boxing returns to ESPN on Saturday with a card from Kissimmee, FL headlined by 130- pound champion Masayuki Ito (25-1-1, 13 KO’s) who is making the second defense of his title against former US Olympian Jamel Herring (19-2, 10 KO’s). While I think this should be an excellent fight, the co-feature, which is flying deep under the radar, should be even better.

In this fight, former two division world champion Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KO’s) makes his return to the ring after losing his lightweight title to Vasiliy Lomachenko in December to face Antonio Lozada (40-2-1, 34 KO’s). Given their respective styles, this fight at the very least will provide plenty of sustained action.

Appropriately nicknamed “The Sniper,” Pedraza at his best is a precision puncher. A boxer-puncher by trade, he uses subtle movement inside the ring to create angles that are used to land sharp power shots on his opposition. He is also a very good inside fighter and will shift around on the inside to once again set up just the right angle to land his power shots with maximum efficiency. But despite being a good inside fighter, Pedraza has a tendency to stay in the pocket a bit too long which leaves him open to getting hit.

Lozada is best known for his upset TKO win against one-time blue-chip prospect Felix Verdejo in March of 2018. However, he failed to build momentum off that win and is coming off a lackluster split draw his last time out to 12-7-1 journeyman Hector Ruben Ambriz Suarez.

Lozada certainly does not have the technical proficiency of Pedraza. He is slow and plodding. But what he does bring to the table is relentless pressure combined with a high volume of punches. He will press forward, recklessly at times, winging punches consistently hoping to wear down his opposition through attrition.  As such, he tends to get hit a lot and can be involved in shootouts.

Cleary, Pedraza is the more skilled fighter, but given Lozada’s all-offensive mindset as well as Pedraza’s willingness to stay in the pocket, the leather is all but guaranteed to be flying from the opening bell. Neither are big punchers either so I suspect we see a fight that goes rounds providing many exciting exchanges and one that could certainly steal the show on Saturday.

Another Under The Radar Fight

Also on Saturday, Fox Sports 1 will televise a card from Biloxi, MS featuring a crossroads fight between former 154-pound champion Austin Trout (31-5, 17 KO’s) and former US Olympian Terrell Gausha (21-1, 10 KO’s). But it is another 154-pound fight on the undercard that is receiving almost no coverage that I want to highlight. It pits Chordale Booker (14-0, 7 KO’s) against Wale Omotoso (27-3, 21 KO’s).

Booker turned pro in 2016 after a successful amateur career and has kept up a fairly busy schedule. He is coming off a dominating 8-round unanimous decision over veteran Juan De Angel in January and now is taking a big jump up in his caliber of opposition in facing Omotoso.

Booker, a southpaw, likes to press forward behind a stinging right jab. He possesses elite level hand speed and likes to use that jab to set up quick power punching combinations. Booker is also an excellent counter puncher and possesses a very potent right hook coming from that southpaw stance. He will often hold his left low to bait his opponents into opening up to set up counter opportunities. However, he has also been clipped by his share of left hooks fighting in this manner and this is something he will need to tighten up against Omotoso. So just how will Booker respond to Omotoso’s pressure and heavy handed body attack? Depending on the answer, we will either see Booker step up to the next level or get exposed. And that’s what makes this fight so intriguing to me

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Fast Results from Oxon Hill: Teofimo Wins but Without Panache

Arne K. Lang

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Fast Results from Oxon Hill: Teofimo Wins but Without Panache

Heading into tonight’s contest with lanky Japanese invader Masayoshi Nakatani, 21-year-old lightweight sensation Teofimo Lopez had never been extended beyond the seventh round. Tonight he went the full 12 and although Teofimo won comfortably on the scorecards (119-109, 118-110 twice) one could say that he actually took a step backward, if only because he had set the bar so high. True, Lopez won lopsidedly, but many of the rounds were close and the fight had no indelible moments.

With the victory, Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) becomes next in line to meet IBF 135-pound title-holder Richard Commey. Osaka’s Nakatani, who had previously fought exclusively in Japan, suffered his first loss, falling to 18-1.

Co-Feature

In what has to be considered an upset, Puerto Rican junior welterweight Subriel Matias stayed unbeaten at the expense of previously unbeaten Maxim Dadashev whose trainer Buddy McGirt pulled him out after the 11th round. It was a coming out party for Matias (14-0, 14 KOs) who took command in the middle rounds and wore Dadashev (13-1) down with body punches.

A stablemate of Vasiliy Lomachenko, Dadashev was reportedly 281-20 as an amateur and came into this bout having won nine of his last 10 inside the distance. Matias had knocked out all 13 of his previous opponents, but was making only his second start on U.S. soil. His punches landed with more effect than those of Dadashev and he was comfortably ahead at the time of the stoppage.

Dadashev began vomiting violently as he was being led back to his dressing room and was put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital for observation.

Other Bouts

In an 8-round middleweight contest, fan favorite Dusty Hernandez Harrison improved to 33-0-1 (18 KOs) with a seventh-round stoppage over Columbia’s Juan De Angel (21-12-1). Hernandez Harrison knocked De Angel to his knees with a three-punch combination and De Angel spit out his mouthpiece as he rose from the canvas, a sign of surrender that compelled the referee to waive it off.

Hernandez Harrison, who turned pro at age 17 in Mississippi, was once hailed as the best prospect to come out of the Washington DC area since Sugar Ray Leonard. He was fed a softie tonight in his third fight back after missing all of 2017 and 2018 with managerial and legal problems. De Angel has now lost seven of his last eight.

In the lid-lifter, a middleweight contest slated for eight rounds, Brazilian southpaw Esquiva Falcao, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, scored an eighth-round stoppage of Tijuana’s stubborn but out-gunned Jesus Antonio Gutierrez. Falcao (24-0, 16 KOs) appears to be on a collision course with former amateur rival Ryota Murata. Gutierrez declined to 25-4-2 (12).

Tyler Howard, a middleweight from Crossville, Tennessee, won his 18th straight without a defeat with a workmanlike 8-round decision over 38-year-old Philadelphia trial horse Jamaal Davis (18-15-1). The scores were 78-73 and 80-72 twice.

In an 8-round lightweight contest, Toledo, Ohio’s Tyler McCreary (16-0-1) outworked Jessie Cris Rosales (22-3-1) to win a split decision. Rosales, a Filipino, has now lost three of his last four.

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The Official TSS Pacquiao – Thurman Prediction Page

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The Official TSS Pacquiao – Thurman Prediction Page

Boxing promoters like to boast that their latest offering is a 50-50 fight. A glance at the available betting odds informs us this attestation is usually bunk.

Not so Saturday’s Pacquiao-Thurman fight, a match where the 50-50 tag is no bull. The oddsmakers opened Thurman a slight favorite, at last glance the other guy was favored, and it wouldn’t surprise us if the pendulum swings back. There’s a considerable amount of “sharp money” on both sides of this proposition and that doesn’t happen very often.

As is our custom when there is a big fight, we survey members of our editorial staff to get their opinions and we list the respondents alphabetically. Comic book cover artist ROB AYALA, whose specialty is combat sports, provided the graphic. Check out more of Rob Ayala’s illustrations at his web site fight posium.

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Matt Andrzejewski — Pacquiao has looked tremendous in his two most recent outings and that has many people thinking he is still at the top of his game. But let’s put those performances in context. One was against a shopworn Lucas Matthysse; the other against a low volume output fighter in Adrien Broner who stylistically played right into Pacquiao’s hands. Thurman shook off the rust in his last fight and is just entering the prime of his career. I think Pacquiao looks his age and THURMAN coasts to a wide decision victory.

Rick Assad — This will be a test of wills and both will be in superb shape, but every factor is in Thurman’s favor, including age, height and punching power. Thurman, who has won 29 straight, 22 via knockout, has disposed of Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Josesito Lopez over the last 52 months, while in Pac-Man’s last six fights, he’s 4-2 with losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Jeff Horn. If this fight took place seven years ago, Pacquiao would win based on hand and foot speed, but it’s 2019 and he will find himself on the short end of the stick. THURMAN by split decision.

Bernard Fernandez – I have always been a fan of the Manny Pacquiao I saw beat the hell out of Ledwaba in his U.S. debut and evolve into an all-time great. But even great fighters yield bits and pieces of their special gifts to the inexorable march of time. Manny is 40, and there is ample evidence that while he has maintained his speed, his vaunted punching power has clearly ebbed. Not that this should be a replay of Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Terry Norris, but I have to side with the younger, undefeated guy. Keith THURMAN doesn’t score the knockout he has promised to deliver, but he does enough to come away with a UD or MD.

Jeffrey Freeman — Keith THURMAN MD12. It won’t be easy in there on the inside but Keith Thurman has the physical range and the closer-to-peak skills needed to carefully outbox an aging but still fit Manny Pacquiao. Thurman survives some shaky moments early to the body, harnesses Manny down the stretch and hears the announcer say he won while simultaneously hearing boos from the crowd unsatisfied with “One Time’s” performance and the off-kilter scoring. As is his wont when he loses, Manny sheds no tears over his now eighth L and “Pac-Man” gobbles up another nice check.

Thomas Hauser — Pacquiao isn’t going to get better at this stage of his career. The open issue regarding Manny is the slope of his decline. By contrast, Thurman has been plagued by injuries and the possible loss of motivation but is young enough to successfully rebound. The big open issue regarding Keith is, “How far has he come back?” My guess is that THURMAN will become more dominant as the fight goes on. How hard he pushes this advantage will determine whether he wins by decision or late stoppage.

Miguel Iturrate – Pacquiao has looked rejuvenated, or at least fully recovered from the shoulder injury that affected his Mayweather performance. He did not look 40 years old against Matthysse and Broner. On the other hand, Thurman is fresh off a long layoff but his most recent outing against veteran Josesito Lopez left some questions. Add to this the news that the fighters will not be subject to VADA testing, and I suspect that we are going to get a pretty sharp version of the Pac-man. I’m going to go with PACQUIAO on this one.

Arne Lang – I envision this fight echoing Thurman’s 2016 fight with Shawn Porter. Keith Thurman fought that fight on the retreat, frequently with his back against the ropes, but won seven of the 12 rounds on all three scorecards. I look for another close and potentially unpopular decision with the nod going against the Senator. THURMAN-Porter was a lollapalooza. Perhaps we’ll get lucky again.

Kelsey McCarson — I like Pacquiao by decision. A good rule of thumb for people like me who like to pick fights is to never back a fighter over 35. Pacquiao is 40 now, and he’s nowhere near the elite specimen he was ten years ago. But backing Pacquiao in his last fight against the much younger Adrien Broner made sense, and I think breaking my rule in this case for Pacquiao-Thurman does, too. Thurman has a quality resume, but I’m guessing somewhere inside he knows he’s not quite a great welterweight. That’s probably why he wanted no part of Errol Spence and probably also what led to him being out of the ring for so long during recent years. The fight will be competitive, but PACQUIAO will throw and land more punches while Thurman will mostly try to move and box off his backfoot once he gets a taste of Pacquiao’s power.

Matt McGrain — “Last time I knew Manny Pacquiao was going to win he lost to Jeff Horn. On the other hand, picking against a living legend like Manny is just not a thing I can do happily. So, it’s dry, and it’s sad then, that I’m picking Keith THURMAN, but the point at which my heart rules my head has been reached and breached. Too big, too tough. The tipping point with Manny has also been reached and breached, I think. I really am looking forward to his proving me wrong.”

Sean Nam — As impressive as it may have been to see 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao outpoint loudmouth dilettante Adrien Broner, it should not disguise the fact that the full-time Senator has been on the decline for nearly a decade. Indeed, by agreeing to face Keith Thurman, the natural welterweight with perhaps the best resume in the division, Pacquiao will be trading punches with a world-class opponent in his prime, a circumstance not seen since at least 2016, when he rematched Timothy Bradley Jr. Of course, Thurman has his own laundry list of caveats. After a two-year period of inactivity and injuries, Thurman returned to the ring earlier this year in a virtual tune-up against Josesito Lopez. Though he won wide on points, he was wobbled badly midway through the fight. Also to consider is the fact that Thurman has not had a clear-cut knockout victory since he fought Julio Diaz in 2014, a sign that perhaps he does not hit as hard as some think. Thurman is not likely to knock out a proven, stone cold competitor like Pacquiao, but he has the athletic credentials — and enough power — to edge the aging icon on the scorecards. As has been his custom for the past several fights, expect Thurman to run circles around the ring as he uncorks potshots on Pacquiao. Keith THURMAN SD 12

Ted Sares – I see PACQUIAO winning by MD. As soon as he buzzes Thurman, “One Time” will start running which is his wont. It will be a boring affair unless Thurman tires and Pac catches him.

Phil Woolever — The facts should speak for themselves but I don’t know what they’re saying. Thurman’s resume includes notable victories over Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Robert Guerrero. He has lost to no one. Pacquaio has notable victories over Erik Morales (twice), Juan Manuel Marquez (twice plus a draw), Shane Mosley, Timothy Bradley, Jr (twice), Marco Antonio Barrera (twice), rare stoppages of Barrera, Miguel Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya plus a total wipeout of Ricky Hatton. He has highly disputed losses to Bradley and Jeff Horn, a basic shutout to Floyd Mayweather, Jr, a one punch splattering by a possibly enhanced Marquez and a loss to a near prime Morales. Maybe his early stoppage losses to Boonsai Sangsurat and Rustico Torrecampo offer clues I miss. No prediction here, logical or otherwise. I have no idea what to expect except that’s something that makes a great fight.

Observation: There was a distinct lean to Keith Thurman, but the operative word here is “lean.” A more general consensus is that this fight will go to the scorecards with the impending verdict no foregone conclusion.

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When Muhammad Ali and Gerald Ford Met

Thomas Hauser

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When Muhammad Ali and Gerald Ford Met

On June 25, 2019 – one day after the United States Women’s National Team advanced to the quarter-finals of the World Cup – Eight by Eight magazine posted a video clip from an interview conducted in May in which Megan Rapinoe was asked, “Are you excited about going to the White House?”

Rapinoe is white and openly gay. She’s also the heart and soul of the United States Women’s National Team. On multiple occasions, she has followed Colin Kaepernick’s lead and declined to stand for the playing of the National Anthem.

“I’m not going to the f****** White House,” Rapinoe responded. “No, I’m not going to the White House.” Then, taking note of Donald Trump’s proclivities, she added, “We’re not going to be invited.”

The following day, Trump responded with a three-part tweet that read, “Women’s soccer player, @mPinoe, just stated that she is ‘not going to the F…ing White House if we win.’ Other than the NBA, which now refuses to call owners, owners (please explain that I just got Criminal Justice Reform passed, Black unemployment is at the lowest level in our Country’s history, and the poverty index is also best number EVER), leagues and teams love coming to the White House. I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job! We haven’t yet invited Megan or the team, but I am now inviting the TEAM, win or lose. Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team. Be proud of the Flag that you wear. The USA is doing GREAT!”

Despite Trump’s tweet, no invitation to visit the White House was extended to the team after it won the World Cup. More recently, on July 14, Trump further inflamed passions with the following tweet that attacked four women of color who represent Congressional districts in different states.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly. and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”

It was a typical Donald Trump assault – vicious and inaccurate. Three of the four women he attacked were born in the United States. But facts and truth have long been irrelevant to this president.

Trump’s conflict with Megan Rapinoe brings back memories of a conversation I had with Gerald Ford in 1989 when I was researching a biography entitled Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times.

Ali was once one of the most reviled men in the America. He had accepted the teachings of a black separatist religion known as the Nation of Islam. Then, at the height of the war in Vietnam, he refused induction into the United States Army after uttering the immortal words, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” He was stripped of his championship, precluded from boxing for more than three years, and faced five years in prison before his criminal conviction was overturned by the United States Supreme Court. Through it all, Ali persevered. On October 30, 1974, he dethroned George Foreman to reclaim the heavyweight championship of the world.

Then came an occasion that would have been unthinkable if today’s race-baiting president had been in office. On December 10, 1974, at the invitation of Gerald Ford, Muhammad Ali visited the White House.

“When I took office,” Ford told me thirty years ago, “we as a nation were pretty much torn apart. There were conflicts between families, in colleges, and on the streets. We’d gone through some serious race problems. The Vietnam War had heightened differences. And of course, there was the heritage of Watergate. One of the major challenges my administration faced was how we could heal the country. Not that everybody had to agree, but at least we should lower our voices and listen to one another. I think that, during the two-and-a-half years I was president, we did that. And having Muhammad Ali come to the Oval Office was part of our overall effort. I felt it was important to reach out and indicate individually as well as collectively that we could have honest differences without bitterness. So I wanted to meet Muhammad, not only because of my interest in sports, but because it was part of my overall effort to heal the wounds of racial division, Vietnam, and Watergate.”

How did the meeting go?

“I recall it quite well,” Ford reminisced. “I’ve always been interested in boxing. It goes back to my youth, when I can recall very vaguely Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney and then, later, Joe Louis. And I’ve always been a sports enthusiast. I always liked to meet the best in any part of the sporting world, and certainly Muhammad Ali was representative of that group. His visit was an enjoyable time for me. Muhammad never lacked for words, and it was a real pleasure to chat with him. We talked about some of his successes and my interest in sports. I’ve always respected what he accomplished in boxing. And he was a man of principle. I know there were some who thought he evaded his military responsibility, but I’ve never questioned anybody’s dedication to whatever religion they believe in. I give people the maximum benefit of the doubt when they take a stand predicated on conscience. That’s always been my philosophy, so I never joined the critics who complained about what he did and didn’t do during the Vietnam War. I accepted his decision.”

It’s sad how times have changed.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing  – will be published this autumn by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

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