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Three Punch Combo: Two Under the Radar Fights and Thoughts on Joshua – Ruiz

Matt Andrzejewski

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — After what was in essence a bye week in the sport, the schedule ramps up again this weekend with several high-profile cards on major platforms. And as is usually the case in such busy weeks, a few very intriguing contests are flying severely under the radar.

On Friday, ESPN will televise a card from the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, CA headlined by the lightweight title fight between Richard Commey (28-2, 25 KO’s) and Raymundo Beltran (36-8-1, 22 KO’s). While I love this fight, the 154-pound co-feature between Carlos Adames (17-0, 14 KO’s) and Patrick Day (17-2-1, 6 KO’s) is no less intriguing.

Adames nicknamed Bronco Horse (El Caballo Bronco in Spanish), is an enigma. As far as talent goes, he has plenty of it. He’s very athletic with above average hand speed and heavy-handed power. There is also fluidity to his game that makes him stand out as a prospect. He seems to have star potential written all over him.

However, there is a major question mark on Adames. Though he oozes with talent, he often seems unmotivated. In his fight in January against Juan Ruiz, Adames looked asleep for the first two rounds allowing his opponent to do whatever he pleased. But in the round three, Adames looked like a different man and easily dispatched Ruiz. Thus far, these types of moments have been all too common in Adames’ career.

Day is a big step up in class for Adames. A classic boxer-puncher by trade, Day is quick on his feet and will certainly look to use his legs in this fight. He likes to work behind the jab and fire off combinations when in range with his quick hands. Though Day is not a huge puncher, he is sharp and accurate with his power shots. He will also be coming into this bout with a lot of confidence, having won his last six fights, several of which found him in the underdog role.

This fight is going to feature a nice contrast of styles. Adames will press forward as the aggressor while Day will look to use his legs to box from the outside. If Adames is motivated, he could certainly put on a scintillating performance, but if he is off his game, Day could be the one who puts on a show and vaults into contention in a deep 154- pound division.

Under The Radar Fight, Part Two

 Showtime will televise a card on Saturday from the NRG Arena in Houston, TX that will be headlined by a middleweight contest between Jermall Charlo (28-0, 21 KO’s) and Brandon Adams (21-2, 13 KO’s) with an interim title belt at stake. While this bout is drawing most of the headlines, the televised undercard features a very intriguing featherweight crossroads fight between Eduardo Ramirez (22-1-3, 9 KO’s) and Claudio Marrero (23-3, 17 KO’s) that should provide plenty of fireworks.

Ramirez is just a solid professional fighter. He is not the most athletic, doesn’t possess the quickest hands, and doesn’t have much power, but he is skilled enough to compete at a certain level, often times making very good fights. Ramirez is a southpaw and does fight as a classic boxer-puncher using movement working behind the right jab. He also likes to counter and has shown in the past to be very effective as a counterpuncher. However, he will hold his hands low, presumably looking to get his opposition to lead to set up counters, but in the process can be easy to hit. And he has shown a willingness to get into exchanges which is not always the best idea for him although it does make for entertaining fights.

Marrero, also a southpaw, is an aggressive heavy-handed, volume puncher. At his best, he is pressing the attack from the opening bell throwing punches from all angles as he seeks to overwhelm his opponent. Marrero is not afraid to get into exchanges but unlike Ramirez carries thunderous power in both fists. Defensively, Marrero’s high work rate coupled with any sort of head movement often leaves him exposed to being countered. Essentially, he can be very easy to hit clean.

I love this match-up. It offers a nice contrast of styles between two solid fighters who are not afraid to move their hands as well as get into exchanges. And with both having serious flaws on defense, it figures to be the most action-packed fight of the weekend.

This is going to be fun to watch.

Joshua-Ruiz: Putting The Rumors to Bed

What is the correct explanation for Anthony Joshua’s shocking loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. a few weeks ago in New York? The rumor mill has been churning with all sorts of theories, but I am not buying any of them. In my mind, there’s a much more logical explanation for what happened.

Let’s start by looking back at Joshua’s boxing career. As an amateur, he had a lot of success including winning a 2012 Olympic Gold Medal. But that said, he only had about 50 amateur fights (even fewer according to some accounts). So entering the pro game in 2013, Joshua was still relatively green as far as experience inside the ring.

As a pro, Joshua was moved relatively swiftly fighting 15 times between October of 2013 and December of 2015. This seemed to be a very appropriate pace for a naturally talented fighter who overall lacked ring experience.

But early in 2016 those moving Joshua saw an opportunity they just couldn’t resist. Charles Martin had won the then vacant IBF portion of the heavyweight title when his opponent, Vyacheslav Glazkov, suffered an injury early in their title fight. Martin was still seen as raw and not nearly as talented as Joshua. So Joshua’s team made Martin an offer he couldn’t refuse to come to the UK to defend his newly won title against Joshua. And as expected, Joshua made quick work of Martin. Joshua was now a heavyweight champion.

From that moment forward, Joshua’s career path changed. It was now going to be about bigger fights and bigger events. The developmental stage was over and Joshua became essentially a two fight a year fighter.

I want to pause for a second here and look back at the early careers of three recent long- reigning heavyweight champions in Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko. Specifically, I want to look at what happened soon after they each had their 16th fight as a pro.

After Lewis had his 16th fight in July of 1991, he fought five more times in a span of 13 months before receiving a title shot against Donovan “Razor” Ruddock. Vitali Klitschko fought for the 16th time in March of 1998 and went on to fight seven more times that year alone.

As for Wladimir Klitschko, he had his 16th fight in December of 1997. In 1998, he fought nine times and that included a shocking loss to Ross Puritty. But that continued development, even with a loss suffered, would help Klitschko later on in his career.

My point here is that these three outstanding champions, all of whom had a much deeper amateur pedigree than Joshua, were still in the process of developing as pros and fighting relatively frequently after their 16th professional fight.

My strong belief is that Joshua lost because he became a two fight a year fighter much too early in his career. He still needed to be fighting more frequently, like the three champions above, to develop his craft.  Just how different was the Joshua who fought Ruiz to the Joshua who fought say Dillian Whyte in December of 2015? Not much different frankly and that is a problem.

Put all the rumors to bed. Joshua’s lack of development as a pro is what did him in against Andy Ruiz.

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Star Power: Ryan Garcia and Oscar De La Hoya at West L.A. Gym

David A. Avila

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Under gray skies and very cool temperatures Ryan Garcia arrived with his father and a couple of others at the Westside Boxing Gym on Monday.

Waiting anxiously were about 100 people comprised of mostly videographers and photographers who had already surrounded Oscar De La Hoya who arrived earlier.

Golden Boy greets the Flash.

Garcia (19-0, 16 KOs) has a fight coming soon against Nicaragua’s Francisco Fonseca (25-2-2, 19 KOs) on Friday Feb. 14, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Golden Boy Promotions show will be streamed by DAZN.

“I’m ready for this fight,” Garcia said quickly.

Some say it has been a rather quick road for the fighter from Victorville known as the Flash. But if you ask Garcia, it has been too slow.

“I think he (Garcia) will be world champion this year,” said De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions.

Years ago, De La Hoya arrived with the same hoopla but his travel to the top seemed even faster. By his fifth pro fight he was matched with Jeff Mayweather. Yes, those Mayweathers. At the time Mayweather had fought 27 professional fights and had only two losses. De La Hoya stopped him in four.

In his eighth pro fight De La Hoya met Troy Dorsey, a tough Texan who had formerly held the IBF featherweight world title and who would later win a super featherweight world title. De La Hoya stopped him in one round.

Two years after winning the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, the Golden Boy met WBO world titlist Jimmi Bredahl at the Olympic Auditorium and after dropping him several times finally stopped him in the 10th round. It was De La Hoya’s first world title and he was 21 years old.

Garcia is now 21 and ready to test the loaded lightweight division waters. For a while he was fighting at super featherweight, a division loaded with talent. But lightweights are the Maginot Line when it comes to boxing’s big hitters. Everybody can punch in the 135-pound limit lightweight division.

When Garcia met Romero Duno last November in Las Vegas many expected the speedy Victorville fighter to get his come-uppance. Instead the lanky slugger lit up the strong Filipino fighter and dropped him into the ether world.

It was mesmerizing stuff.

Now he’s back with a load of credibility after shutting down detractors with his devastating knockout win over Duno. It wasn’t supposed to be that easy. Just like it wasn’t supposed to be that easy when De La Hoya raced by world champions like Secretariat did in the Kentucky Derby decades ago. It’s not supposed to be that easy, but for some it truly is.

Garcia seems to be headed for a journey so remarkable that he has other world champions like WBC titlist Devin Haney eyeing him for their next challenges. It barely results in a yawn for the fighter who will be facing a very credible foe in Fonseca next month.

“I’m not even the champion and he’s calling me out,” said Garcia with a whatever kind of look.

Other fighters and promoters can see what Garcia represents and want to get a slice of it too. Its intangible yet most of the boxing world can sense something is coming and Garcia might be part of it.

That’s called star power and it’s difficult to explain. Some have it, many want it and others have no chance of ever attaining it.

Time will tell how far Garcia’s star power will venture.

One man lived that life and, in a sense, still lives that life and that is De La Hoya. Even he senses a déjà vu moment with Garcia.

“It’s why we made him one of the richest young prospects in boxing today,” De La Hoya said.

Expect several thousand ardent fans of Garcia to fill the seats on Valentine’s Day. How else can you explain it but, star power.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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The Much Maligned Boxing Judge

Ted Sares

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Identifying bad judges is pretty easy, but that’s not the purpose of this essay. To the contrary, the emphasis here is on fine judges and the many ways they can be unjustly labeled.

Now to name a few of today’s best boxing judges is to risk excluding others and that’s admittedly unfair but space is limited. Quickly coming to mind, however, are these judges, all currently active: Julie Lederman (pictured), Steve Weisfeld, Glen Feldman, Dave Moretti, Glenn Trowbridge, Joe Pasquale, Max DeLuca, Hubert Earle, Benoit Roussel, Burt Clements, Tom Shreck, Don Trella, Gary Ritter, Patricia Morse Jarman, Pat Russell, Pinit Prayadsab, Raúl Caiz, Jr., and, of course, the South African legend Stanley Christodoulou.

Boxing judges, unlike referees, are far easier to criticize because the average fan can score a fight using whatever criteria he or she selects and the view from a TV is pretty good. This contributes to the relatively high number of maligned boxing judges.

Being a boxing judge is a thankless endeavor where attention is received only when something controversial and/or negative occurs. And once a judgment is made about a bad job, that judgment influences future perceptions. This is known as “confirmation bias.” Thus, when a boxing commentator like the outspoken Teddy Atlas launches into a tirade over the judging in a particular fight, he may be engaging in confirmation bias—a kind of “See, I told you so.” Those who might criticize based on one poor performance may feel their suspicion of botched judging confirmed. Thus, the tagged judges’ reputation may be unfairly tarnished in the future.

Out-of-town fighters going to Texas to fight are aware of the risks based on the post-fight rants of Paulie Malignaggi, Atlas and many others. If so, the solution is to use out-of-state judges or avoid Texas altogether.

However, even if the elite judges make one “questionable” call in the eyes of fans and certain boxing commentators (or have an off day) they can be labeled as “bad” judges while simultaneously serving as a dart board for Bob Arum’s selective and quite nasty criticism.

No judge is perfect. They deal in a subjective world. Even the legendary IBHOF member Harold Lederman was harshly criticized for his scoring in the Maurice Harris vs. Larry Holmes fight in 1997. And even his daughter Julie has served as a target for some of Arum’s especially vicious criticism.

“She is the best judge in our household”—Harold Lederman

“You have people who are concentrating for three minutes, looking at nothing but the gloves, nothing but the punches. These other people are judging from TV, they’re judging from twenty rows back and they don’t see the effect of the punches all the time.”—Dave Moretti

“It’s easy to criticize boxing judges. But it’s not that easy to have a sound basis for the criticism. One needs to see the fight the judge saw to be in the position to rightly criticize. Critics should temper criticisms in light of the situations boxing judges are in when judging fights. And judges should likewise understand criticisms from the boxing public, however baseless these may seem.   Epifanio M. Almeda (PhilBoxing.com)

All it Takes Is One Bad Apple

In the recent Jesse Hart vs. Joe Smith Jr. fight in Atlantic City, a somewhat under-the-radar judge got it terribly wrong. Two judges had it for Smith, 98-91 and 97-92, but the judge in question shockingly had it 95-94 for Hart. He was scorned, tagged, labeled and God knows what. The criticism took on the form of a tsunami.

Bob Arum had this to say: “That judge should be banned from scoring a fight — and I promote Hart. How can you ever score that fight for Jesse Hart? It was a terrific fight, good for boxing, good action fight, and then you have a damn judge who screws it up.”

Al Bernstein added, “…He should never be allowed to judge again….”

A look at his past record as a judge since 2015 doesn’t reveal anything untoward. But he has now been tagged—perhaps justifiably so– and if he somehow gets through this and slips up again, there will be one very loud “we told you so.” It’s the nature of the beast; It is what it is.

The Pod Index

Matt Podgorski (a former boxing official) came up with a method to evaluate the performance of judges worldwide by determining the percentage of instances his or her scores are consistent with the other two judges working the same fights. He calls it the Pod Index. “Boxing and MMA judges are often evaluated based on whether or not they have had a controversial decision. This is a poor way to assign and regard professional judges,” said Podgorski in an interview with former RingTV editor Michael Rosenthal.

Matt’s Disclaimer: “We are not claiming that judges with low Pod Index scores are bad judges. The Pod Index is simply a measurement of round by round variation compared to other judges.”

Steve Farhood

farhood

2017 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Steve Farhood is a lot of things: analyst, writer, historian, commentator, and an unofficial judge for Showtime fights. If he were an official judge, his Pod Index score would undoubtedly be at or near the top. Steve seldom gets it wrong. He may be the best “judge” in boxing.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

There’s was plenty of quality boxing action available for consumption this weekend in the U.S., particularly on Saturday evening because of the competing cards put forth by the PBC on FOX and Top Rank on ESPN crews that have become chief rivals over the last year.

But what were the biggest HITS and MISSES seen during all the action? That’s what you’re here to find out.

HIT – Jeison Rosario’s Stunning Upset for two 154-pound Titles

Nobody expected Rosario to dethrone unified junior middleweight champion Julian Williams on Saturday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, but the massive underdog overcame the situation anyway to vault himself to the top of the junior middleweight division. The thing that saved Rosario was his stunning power. He appeared to be out-boxed by Williams early in the fight, but that changed just as soon as it became apparent Williams was slinging only his fists while Rosario was working with sledgehammers. Now the division has become more crowded than ever at the top with all roads amazingly leading to Rosario, the little known 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic who now owns the WBA and IBF titles.

MISS – Chris Colbert’s Fail to Impress

Junior lightweight prospect Chris Colbert was given a great chance by the PBC to impress fight fans on national television on the undercard of Williams-Rosario, but the talented 23-year-old didn’t make the most of the opportunity. Sure, Colbert was taking a step up in competition by taking on former world titleholder Jezreel Corrales for a vacant interim belt, but Colbert mostly came across as a talented fighter who just doesn’t seem quite capable of putting it all together yet. Colbert won the fight, but it wasn’t interesting or noteworthy in any way. Judging by how the PBC has worked in the past, he’ll get plenty more chances to shine, but I’m not sure anyone but the people who stand to gain monetarily from the fighter’s success will be looking forward to it.

HIT –  Eleider Alvarez’s Epic KO of Michael Seals

Former light heavyweight titleholder Alvarez scored the early leader for knockout of the year against Seals in the main event at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The fight was fairly lackluster until the explosive ending in the seventh round. It was an important victory for Alvarez, who was coming off losing his title to Sergey Kovalev via decision last February. Alvarez is 35, so it was imperative for him to get back to action and remind people he’s still a viable contender in the 175-pound ranks. And there’s no better way to do that in boxing than by thunderous knockout.

MISS – Felix Verdejo’s Fresh Start Starts Stale

Verdejo is still only 26 years old, but after defeating Manuel Rojas in a lightweight bout at Turning Stone, the once highly regarded prospect doesn’t appear to be any closer today than he was yesterday to living up to the tremendous promise he once possessed. To be completely fair to Verdejo, it was only his first fight under new trainer Ismael Salas and the fighter still has time on his side. Still, there appears to be plenty of work to do if Verdejo is ever to become a world champion. In fact, he didn’t look all that materially different from the fighter who was knocked out in 2018.

HIT – Floyd Mayweather Wins Prestigious BWAA Award 

I honestly had some concern that Mayweather wouldn’t win the BWAA’s Fighter of the Decade award before it was announced on Friday via press release. After all, Mayweather lost the previous decade’s top honor to Manny Pacquiao in 2010, and Sports Illustrated had just named Andre Ward its Fighter of the Decade winner the week prior. It’s only one person’s opinion, of course, but I think there would have been something wrong with Mayweather not picking up the honor at least once in the last two decades. After all, he’s quite easily the generation’s best overall fighter and he’s transcended the sport to mainstream celebrity status, too. Congrats to Mayweather for winning the well-deserved honor.

Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp / TGB Promotions

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