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The TSS Prediction Page Returns with Picks and Analyses of Canelo vs Kovalev

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Whenever there is a big fight with a high level of intrigue, we survey members of our writing community to get their thoughts. Saturday’s fight in Las Vegas between Canelo Alvarez and Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev for Kovalev’s WBO title certainly qualifies. Under the old (and not yet quite dead) economic model, this would have been a pay-per view fight. Instead, it will be live-streamed in the United States and throughout most of the world to DAZN subscribers.

As is our custom, we our listing our panelists alphabetically, but this time with the exception that the editor has pulled rank and reserved the right to go last. The graphic is by Colorado comic book cover artist ROB AYALA whose work is attracting a lot of buzz. Ayala’s specialty is combat sports. Check out more of his work at his web site fight posium.

PREDICTIONS

Everybody knows Kovalev has two major susceptibilities. Body punching and endurance. But people do forget that Kovalev has excellent overall and underrated boxing skills. I see Kovalev giving Canelo trouble in the first six rounds. But Kovalev’s susceptibilities can’t be overlooked and I see him fading badly in the second half of the fight. This contest ultimately will be a mirror image of Ward-Kovalev II. Canelo TKO 8. – MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI

*

Saul Alvarez might be the best pound-for-pound boxer working today and on November 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, he will seize Sergey Kovalev’s World Boxing Organization’s light heavyweight belt. It won’t be easy, but Alvarez will emerge with a split decision victory because he’s too strong and too wise. – RICK ASSAD

*

This fight reminds me of Roy Jones Jr.’s challenge of the much larger WBA heavyweight champion, John Ruiz. RJJ figured — and he was proven correct — that his skill level was so superior to Ruiz’s that the size differential wouldn’t matter much. As boxing’s premier cash cow, Canelo, DAZN and Golden Boy all had to figure he has to be similarly better than an older, naturally bigger and perhaps diminished Kovalev, who, as we learned from his fights with Andre Ward, doesn’t much like getting hit to the body. My call: Canelo by unanimous decision, whereupon he moves right back down to middleweight. – BERNARD FERNANDEZ

*

Canelo Alvarez has a knack for winning competitive fights against good fighters. Don’t expect that to change against Sergey Kovalev at light heavy. Canelo will probably eat some hard punches but the work he does on the inside will have a greater effect on Kovalev’s momentum. All things being close to equal, it’s Kovalev giving ground and Canelo stepping forward to claim and defend it. Canelo close UD. – JEFFREY FREEMAN

*

While Alvarez is indeed taking a calculated risk in moving up to light heavyweight, most of the data (beyond the size difference) supports Alvarez winning the fight. Alvarez is still just 29 years old, which is kind of amazing if you think about all that he’s already accomplished. Kovalev is seven years older, in clear decline, and has lost three of his last seven fights. Still, I think it’s a really close fight where Kovalev’s jab gives Alvarez real issues. I like Alvarez via majority decision in a fight many people think could have gone either way. – KELSEY McCARSON

*

History appears to be against Alvarez, but as always, the diminishing value of “world” titles has a role to play here. Canelo isn’t stepping up to take on the very best light-heavyweight in the world – that’s Artur Beterbiev. Still, knocking off one of the top men in a weight division so far removed from that in which a 5’8 fighter like Alvarez belongs would be so impressive I hesitate to pick him. But I do pick him. Disaster might unfold at any moment for the Mexican but I think he’ll struggle through to win one on the cards. His timing is good here, the sense that Kovalev is ready to be taken has been growing. The key round in this fight might be thrilling. – MATT McGRAIN

*

No doubt, Canelo Alvarez will be the smaller man — and the lesser puncher — when he enters the ring against light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev on Saturday. But Alvarez will definitely be the fresher of the two. He is also the more well-rounded fighter, and that may be the only key difference of what figures to be a coin-flip fight. Look for Kovalev to have some success early on with his jab, but expect Alvarez to make adjustments, administering punishing counters to the head and body. Alvarez by UD – SEAN NAM

*

Since Canelo is at the top of my current P4P list and the Russian is nowhere in sight, this one is not all that difficult. The fight will be pretty even during the first three feel-out rounds and then Canelo will start launching deadly left hooks upstairs and to the body in rapid combinations. Krusher will begin to break down around the 8th or 9th, at which point Canelo will pick his spots with damaging work, especially downstairs. Kovalev, unable to contend with Canelo’s defensive skills, will either get knocked out late or lose by dominant UD. – TED SARES

*

I’m going with the younger Canelo on the basis of age, wear and tear. He seems to be improving while, with seven years more mileage, Kovalev has faded from his days as a monster. The wild card could be how much weight Sergey adds after the weigh-in, and if the proportional bulk throws Alvarez off his game plan. A very intriguing match. – PHIL WOOLEVER

*

I respect the opinions of our savvy TSS wordsmiths, but I am compelled to play devil’s advocate and take the road less traveled, mindful that the world’s best sports gamblers are contrarians. In his rematch with Eleider Alvarez, Kovalev looked like a different fighter than he was in their first encounter. In his last start against Anthony Yarde, a big puncher, he was nearly bombed out in the eighth round but kept his composure and regained the upper hand. What these two fights have in common is Hall of Fame trainer Buddy McGirt, who hadn’t previously worked with Kovalev. In a close fight, Krusher prevails, rejuvenating the hoary adage that a good big man will always beat a good little man – ARNE LANG

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Berchelt TKOs Valenzuela in Mexico City

David A. Avila

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Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt hammered his way to a decisive knockout victory over fellow Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela in a non-title light fight on Saturday.

After nearly nine months off, WBC super featherweight titlist Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) unraveled a withering body attack including numerous low blows but Valenzuela remained upright in front of a sparse TV studio audience until he could take it no longer.

Berchelt used a seven-punch combination to knock the senses out of the very tough Valenzuela who hails from Sinaloa. The referee saw enough and stopped the fight with Valenzuela leaning against the ropes with a dazed look.

The champion from Cancun used a triple left hook in the first round to floor Valenzuela and it looked like the fight would not last more than two rounds. But Valenzuela, a sturdy veteran, bored into Berchelt to keep him off balance and was able to stop the momentum.

It did not last.

A vicious attack to the body sapped the energy from Valenzuela who has fought many elite fighters in the past, but none like Berchelt. He was able to batter the veteran round after round.

Valenzuela sought to reverse the momentum with some combinations of his own. Berchelt opened up with some combinations from the outside and cracked his foe with some skull-numbing blows that clearly affected Valenzuela’s senses. The referee wisely stopped the fight at 1:03 of the sixth round to give the win to Berchelt by knockout.

The victory opens the door to a potential clash with featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez of Nogales, Mexico who has a fight of his own planned next month. Both champions are promoted by Top Rank.

Other Bouts       

Omar Aguilar (18-0, 17 KOs) bushwacked veteran Dante Jardon (32-7, 23 KOs) within a minute of the first round to win by technical knockout. A barrage of blows by Ensenada’s Aguilar opened up the fight and a four-punch combination forced the referee to stop the super lightweight fight with Mexico City’s Jardon against the ropes.

A battle between super bantamweights saw the taller Alan Picasso (14-1) out-hustle Florentino Perez (14-6-2) in an eight round clash between Mexican fighters. Mexico City’s Picasso fought effectively inside against the shorter Perez of Monterrey and was able to maintain a consistent pace. Neither fighter approved the use of a jab but Picasso was more effective inside with body shots and uppercuts and dominated the last half of the fight.  The six judges scored in favor of Picasso.

The WBC instituted the extra judges as a means of tabulating score cards efficiently. Three judges scored from the television studios and another three judges scored from the USA. It was the second time WBC judges officiated remotely and all six scorecards were official.

Photo credit: Zanfer Promotions

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Big Baby Miller, Roberto Duran and More

Arne K. Lang

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Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller just can’t keep his hands out of the cookie jar. It was announced today (Saturday, June 27) that the jumbo-sized heavyweight from Brooklyn tested positive for a banned substance, forcing him out of a July 9 fight at the MGM Grand “Bubble” against Jerry Forrest. The story was broken by Mike Coppinger of The Athletic who breaks more hard news stories than any other boxing writer.

Miller, needless to say is a repeat offender. He failed three different PED tests in a span of three days for three different banned substances leading into his planned June 2019 match at Madison Square Garden with WBA/IBF/WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. That cost him the fight and a reported $5 million-plus payday. Andy Ruiz filled the void and scored an historic upset.

When the first test came back positive, Miller wailed that he was the victim of a faulty test. “My team and I stand for integrity, decency and honesty and will fight this with everything we have,” he said in a prepared statement. He later changed his tune. “I messed up,” he said.

In a story that appeared on these pages, Thomas Hauser noted that Big Baby had a history of PED use dating to 2014. In that year, he was slapped with a nine-month suspension by the California Athletic Commission following a kickboxing event in Los Angeles.

Counting this latest revelation, it’s five strikes for Big Baby. He’s taking quite a roasting right now on social media. Some of the harshest criticism is coming from his fellow boxers.

Assuming that Top Rank can’t find a replacement for Miller, this is another tough break for Jerry Forrest, a 32-year-old southpaw from Virginia with a 26-3 (20) record. Forrest was scheduled to fight hot prospect Filip Hrgovic on April 17 on a card at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a show swept away by the coronavirus outbreak. Forrest has been matched very soft throughout his career, but he acquitted himself well in his lone previous TV appearance, losing a split decision to undefeated Jermaine Franklin on “Showtime: The New Generation.” The decision was controversial.

There’s talk now that Carlos Takam is angling to replace Big Baby. The French-Cameroonian, a former world title challenger who turns 40 in December, was billed out of Henderson, Nevada, in his last ring appearance that saw him winning a unanimous decision over fellow greybeard Fabio Maldonado in Huntington, NY.

—-

When it comes to Murphy’s Law (“anything that can go wrong, will”), there’s no sport quite like boxing. Just ask Bob Arum. The most mouth-watering matchup in his ESPN “summer series” fell out this week when Eleider Alvarez suffered a shoulder injury in training, forcing a postponement of his July 16 date with Joe Smith Jr. The match between Alvarez (25-1, 13 KOs) and Smith (25-3, 20 KOs) would have been a 12-rounder with the winner guaranteed a shot at the vacant WBO light heavyweight title, a diadem that Alvarez previously owned.

Joe Smith Jr, a Long Island construction worker once dismissed as nothing more than a club fighter, won legions of new fans in his last start, a one-sided (to everyone except one myopic judge) win over Jesse Hart in Atlantic City.

Cancelled matches have become a recurrent theme in ESPN’s semi-weekly boxing series. The very first card in the series lost what shaped up as its most competitive fight when Mikaela Mayer tested positive for COVID-19, scuttling her bout with Helen Joseph. In subsequent weeks, the manager of Mikkel Les Pierre tested positive for COVID-19 as did WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring. Those bad test results forced the postponement of two main events. Then earlier this week, hot lightweight prospect Joseph Adorno was lopped off Tuesday’s card after feeling sick after coming in overweight at the previous day’s weigh-in.

The undercards of the Tuesday/Thursday ESPN fights have left something to be desired, but that’s understandable. As Bob Arum noted in a conversation with veteran boxing scribe Keith Idec, Top Rank’s matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad “Abdul” Goodman have had a hard time fleshing out the cards because with so many gyms closed there’s a shortage of boxers who are in shape to fight on short notice. Then there are the COVID-19 travel restrictions and (something Arum did not acknowledge) budgetary restrictions more severe than an ordinary Top Rank card. Most of the undercard fighters have come from neighboring states such as Utah, saving Top Rank the cost of air fare. Fighters from faraway places, with some exceptions, were already training in Las Vegas.

Kudos to the entire Top Rank staff for keeping boxing alive during these challenging times.

It’s old news now, but Panamanian boxing legend Roberto Duran, 69, tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized in Panama City with a viral infection. There’s been no update on his condition but his son Robin Duran wrote on Instagram that his father is not having any symptoms beyond those associated with a common cold. We will update you when new details become available.

Duran’s hospitalization came just a few days after the 40th anniversary of his first fight with Sugar Ray Leonard in what would say was Duran’s finest hour. They met on June 20, 1980 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

Duran won a unanimous decision. Converting the “10-point must” system into rounds, Duran prevailed by scores of 3-2-10, 6-5-4, and 6-4-5. As Yogi would have said, you could look it up.

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Fast Results from the Bubble: Jason Moloney TKOs Baez

Arne K. Lang

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Top Rank was back inside the MGM Grand “Bubble” tonight for chapter six of their semi-weekly ESPN summer series. Jason Moloney, one-half of Australia’s Moloney twins, accomplished what his brother Andrew Moloney was unable to accomplish in this ring on Tuesday night, adding a “W” to his ledger and looking good doing it. It came at the expense of Mexicali’s Leonardo Baez.

It was Jason Moloney’s second start on U.S. soil after coming up just a tad short in a bid for the vacant IBF world bantamweight title at Orlando in October of 2018. Against Baez, he fought a smart tactical fight, blunting the Mexican’s superior reach by fighting him at close quarters. Baez fought from the third round on with a cut over his right eye and then suffered a cut over his left eye in the seventh round. By then the fight was becoming increasingly one-sided and Baez’s corner did not let him come out for round eight.

Jason Moloney improved to 21-1 with his 18th knockout. Leonardo Baez, who took the fight on short notice after Maloney’s original opponent Oscar Negrete was forced to withdraw with a detached retina, slumped to 18-3.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Abraham Nova advanced to 19-0 with a unanimous decision over Philadelphia’s Avery Sparrow but won no new fans with a lackadaisical performance. Nova, born in Puerto Rico to parents from the Dominican Republic and raised in Albany, NY, showed little but his jab through the first seven rounds until hurting Sparrow with a big right hand in the eighth. The judges had it 96-94, 97-93, and 99-91.

Sparrow (10-2), whose lone previous loss was by disqualification, was making his first start in 15 months. He was slated to fight Ryan Garcia in Los Angeles last Sept. 14 but never made it to the weigh-in after being arrested by U.S. marshals on a charge of threatening a woman with a gun after she threw his clothes out the window…

Other Bouts

In an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rican southpaw Orlando Gonzalez advanced to 15-0 with a unanimous decision over Ecuador’s Luis Porozo (15-3). The scores were 76-74 and 77-73 twice.

Gonzalez wasn’t particularly impressive although he did score two knockdowns. He decked Porozo near the end of round two with a left hook following a straight left and decked him again near the end of round seven with a left uppercut to the body.

In a rather ho-hum fight, welterweight Vlad Panin improved to 8-1 with 6-round majority decision over San Antonio’s 36-year-old Benjamin Whitaker (13-4). Panin, a Belarusian who grew up in Las Vegas and earned a BA in English from UCLA, has a good back story but seemingly a limited upside in the fight game.

In an entertaining 6-round welterweight clash, Filipino campaigner Reymond Yanon improved to 11-5-1 with a split decision (59-55, 58-56, 56-58) over Clay Burns. A 33-year-old ex-Marine from Fort Worth, Burns declined to 9-8-2.

The opener, a heavyweight bout slated for six rounds, matched two Phoenix-based fighters in a rematch. Kingsley Ibeh, a former standout defensive lineman for the Washburn College Ichabods, avenged his lone defeat and improved to 4-1 with a fourth-round stoppage of Waldo Cortes (5-3). Ibeh, who at 286 had a 39-pound weight advantage, softened Cortes up with a series of uppercuts and Cortes was on his way down when he was tagged with a glancing left hand. He got to his feet, but referee Vic Drakulich waived it off. The official time was 1:41.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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