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Three Punch Combo: The Other Inoue, the Saunders-Coceres Mismatch and More

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — The much-anticipated final of the WBSS bantamweight tournament will take place this week in Japan between IBF champion Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KO’s) and WBA champion Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KO’s). But Naoya is not the only Inoue in action on this card. On the undercard, his younger brother Takuma (13-0, 3 KO’s) will challenge for his first world title when he faces WBC bantamweight champion Nordine Oubaali (16-0, 12 KO’s).

Takuma (pictured) is clearly a different fighter than his more popular brother. Notably there is a vast difference in punching power. Many consider Naoya to be pound for pound the hardest puncher in the sport. Takuma, on the other hand, does not possess thunderous power or, for that matter, heavy hands. But like his brother, he is a sharp accurate puncher.

Since Takuma is not the puncher his brother is, his overall game is much different inside the ring. Whereas Naoya is a seek and destroy offensive minded fighter, Takuma relies on a more technical approach.

I don’t usually draw comparisons but when I first saw Takuma in action, I thought I was watching a mini version of Mikey Garcia minus the power. Fighting from the orthodox stance, Takuma likes to constantly be within range of his opponents and creates angles using subtle footwork to land pinpoint combinations. And he likes to further keep his opponents off balance by using well timed feints.

Defensively, Takuma has some things in common with his older brother. Most noticeable to me is that neither brother has any type of head movement. And like his brother, Takuma will hold his hands low in spots making him an inviting target.

These defensive flaws will almost certainly be put to the test by Oubaali, a strong bantamweight who will take the fight to Takuma. Oubaali is a heavy-handed volume puncher who is not afraid to eat some leather to land his own combinations.

The key question is whether Takuma has enough behind his shots to get Oubaali’s respect? If Takuma can’t get Oubaali’s respect, then we will probably see something similar to Oubaali’s title winning performance against Rau’shee Warren earlier this year. But if Takuma has enough behind his punches to make Oubaali think twice about unleashing his own leather, we will probably see a pair of brothers ruling the bantamweight division by evening’s end.

Who Is Marcelo Esteban Coceres?

There will be a lot of eyeballs on this Saturday’s DAZN card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that will be headlined by YouTube stars Logan Paul and KSI (Olajide Olatunji) who will do battle in a scheduled six round cruiserweight contest. With all the attention this event is garnering, promoter Eddie Hearn is using the opportunity to showcase other fighters to a worldwide audience.

One such fighter is undefeated 168-pound champion Billy Joe Saunders (28-0, 13 KO’s) who will be defending his title against the unheralded Marcelo Esteban Coceres (28-0-1, 15 KO’s) of Argentina. While boxing fans are very familiar with Saunders, the same cannot be said of Coceres. So just who is this unbeaten Argentine and does he pose a threat to Saunders?

Coceres, 28, turned pro as a middleweight in February of 2012. After a successful debut, Coceres suffered the only blemish on his resume in his second pro fight when he fought to a four round split draw against Cesar Hernan Reynoso. Coceres’ last fight came in September when he won a ten round unanimous decision over countryman German Ignacio Peralta who entered the ring with an uninspiring record of 7-5-5.

It should be noted that all 29 of Coceres’ pro fights have taken place in his native Argentina. And his resume is loaded with names that even the most die-hard of boxing fans wouldn’t recognize. To say he has built his record with subpar opposition would be quite an understatement.

Here are some observations about Coceras drawn from the video available online. He fights from the orthodox stance and prefers to counter, though in spots he will try to initiate attacks from behind the left jab. That jab is not very strong or sharp and used primarily as a range finder.

When Coceres does throw in combination, the punches tend to be very wide and do not seem to have much behind them. As far as hand speed and overall athleticism, I would rate Coceres as below average for the 168-pound division.

Defensively, Coceres does exhibit some good head movement. But he can get very lazy when bringing the left jab back and easily countered when doing so. Additionally, Coceres has a bad habit of pulling straight back with his hands down.

From the video I have seen, there is nothing that indicates he will be any type of threat to Saunders. Coceres just does not have the power or speed to get Saunders’ respect. Plus, when Coceres does open up with those wide swinging punches, Saunders will be able to land clean counter shots in return. It should be an easy night’s work for Saunders who should be able to dispose of Coceres whenever he sees fit.

What’s Next For Ryan Garcia?

In what was supposed to be his toughest fight to date, 21-year-old lightweight contender Ryan Garcia (19-0, 16 KO’s) made quite a statement on Saturday, dispatching Romero Duno (21-2, 16 KO’s) in the first round of their scheduled 12-round fight. As the buzz around Garcia continues to build, the natural question becomes what will be next for the young phenom?

Despite the sensational performance, Garcia is still relatively green and can use some more development. Boxing politics aside, this is my way of saying that while it will be fun to talk about him facing someone like Vasiliy Lomachenko or the winner of Teofimo Lopez-Richard Commey, those fights are just not realistic at this time. Nor is it realistic to see Garcia fighting in the immediate future for one of the many title belts available in the division (though that may not be far away).

I suspect Garcia’s promoter, Golden Boy, will put him in next with seasoned veteran with a name. And the name that just jumps off the page to me is another fighter with ties to Golden Boy in former three division champion Jorge Linares.

Linares suffered a bad loss in January when he was stopped in the first round by Pablo Cesar Cano. But that fight took place at 140 and Linares returned to lightweight in September to win a ten round unanimous decision win over journeyman Al Toyogon.  The bounce-back win at his more natural weight can be used by Golden Boy as a selling point to legitimize a fight with Garcia.

Garcia has been craving the opportunity to headline a big event and a fight against Linares would certainly appease Garcia in that respect as well.

If a fight with Linares cannot be put together, another option may be Masayoshi Nakatani who recently gave Teofimo Lopez a tough test while dropping a 12-round unanimous decision. It would be a good measuring stick kind of fight for Garcia and give him an opportunity to make another big statement, especially if he can perform better than Teofimo did against a common opponent.

The future certainly appears to be bright for Garcia. I suspect we see him in another step-up fight the next time out with Linares and Nakatani being the two preferred options.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel  

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Johnny Famechon was a Hero in Australia Where Willie Pep Had a Bad Night

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Willie Pep was good at boxing. He wasn’t so good at math. Ah, but hold the phone; we are getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t a story about Willie Pep, but about former world featherweight champion Johnny Famechon who passed away last Thursday, Aug. 4, in Melbourne, Australia, at age 77.

Famechon was five years old when his parents left his birthplace in Paris and settled in Melbourne. He came to the fore in an era when boxing was still a mainstream sport and home-grown champions were national idols. The locals turned out in droves for the parade in Johnny’s honor when he returned to Melbourne after taking the featherweight crown from the Cuban-born Spaniard Jose Legra in a big upset at London’s Prince Albert Hall.

HeraldSun

Famechon’s Welcome Home Parade

Famechon’s first title defense came against Japan’s Fighting Harada. They met in Sydney, Australia, on July 28, 1969.

At age 26, Harada was a battle-tested veteran. He previously held world titles at flyweight and bantamweight and would be remembered as the only man to defeat the great Brazilian boxer Eder Jofre, a feat he accomplished not once, but twice.

Only two boxers in history – Bob Fitzsimmons and Henry Armstrong – had won world titles in three of the eight classic weight divisions. Harada, who entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, was bidding to become the third.

Team Harada insisted on a neutral referee. The British promoters chose Willie Pep. A legend in the sport, Pep had previously shared a ring with another Famechon, having out-pointed Johnny’s uncle Ray Famechon in a featherweight title defense at Madison Square Garden in 1950.

Some thought that Pep would favor Fighting Harada. American referees put a higher premium on aggression than did their foreign counterparts and Harada was a little buzzsaw who rarely took a backward step. But others thought that Pep’s selection favored Famechon, an elusive counterpuncher with whom the Connecticut “Will-‘o-Wisp” could identify; their styles were similar.

Pep had been the third man in the ring for four previous title fights, three in Jamaica and one in Brazil. But this fight would be different. He would be the sole arbiter. If the fight went the full 15 rounds, Willie Pep would be the judge and jury.

During the bout, Famechon scored one knockdown, sending Harada to the canvas in round five, but Harada scored three, knocking Famechon down in rounds two, 11, and 14. The last of the three knockdowns was the harshest, but Famechon made it to the final bell.

The fight ended in a clinch. Immediately upon separating the fighters, Pep raised both of their hands, a signal that the fight was a draw.

Fighting Harada’s handlers were outraged and demanded to see the scorecard. A policeman at ringside was empowered to give it a look-over (Australia had no boxing commission). What the policeman found was that there was indeed a discrepancy. However, it was the opposite of what Team Harada anticipated!

The fight was scored on the antiquated system whereby the winner of a round was awarded five points and the loser four points or less. In the case of an even round, both fighters got five points.

After 13 rounds, Fighting Harada had amassed 59 points on Pep’s card. He won the 14th round, giving him an aggregate total of 64 points. But when Pep added up the numbers “59” and “5” in the column where he kept the aggregate total, he came up with “65.”

Oops.

When Pep signaled that the fight was a draw, people stormed the ring from all sides. Newspaper reports said the belligerents were about evenly divided. Famechon, the Aussie, was the crowd favorite, but Fighting Harada was well-backed in the betting markets, a very big industry in Australia. Many were even angrier when Famechon was summoned back to the ring to have his hand raised.

The Famechon-Harada fight aired live on Japanese television. In Japan, there was a great outpouring of outrage. Pep had been instructed to score a round 5-4 if the round was narrow and 5-3 if there was a clear-cut winner. Despite the knockdowns, Pep scored every round 5-4 or 5-5. In the revised tally, he had Famechon winning 6-5-4 in rounds.

“Harada loses to referee” was the headline in Japan’s leading sports daily. Willie Pep made no friends in Australia either. There were shouts of “Yankee go home” as he left the ring.

Famechon and Harada met again five months later in Tokyo. One would assume that Fighting Harada proved superior and got a fair shake, winning the third title denied him in Sydney. But don’t assume.

Harada was well ahead after ten rounds but faded. On the deck in round 10, Famachon returned the favor three rounds later, knocking Harada down hard with a perfectly placed left hook. Harada was in dire straights when he came out for round 14 and Famechon put him away.

Harada never fought again and Famechon left the sport six months later after losing his crown to Vicente Saldivar. Johnny was only 25 years old, but had crammed 67 fights into a nine-year pro career and said enough is enough.

Famechon’s post-boxing life took a tragic turn in 1991 when he was hit by a car while out jogging on a Sydney highway. He spent several weeks in a coma and several years in a wheelchair but eventually recovered most of his motor skills and regained his speech to the point where he could serve as a boxing color commentator on television. In 2018, a larger-than- life statue of Famechon was unveiled at a public park in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston where he was a longtime resident.

For the record, Johnny Famechon finished his career with a record of 56-5-6 with 20 KOs. We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences to his loved ones.

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clashof-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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Fast Results from Fort Worth Where Vergil Ortiz Jr Won His 19th Straight by KO

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In a match pushed back from March 19, Vergil Ortiz Jr moved one step closer to a mega-fight with Terence “Bud” Crawford or Errol Spence Jr or Boots Ennis with a ninth-round stoppage of England’s feather-fisted Michael McKinson. The end came 20 seconds into round nine when McKinson appeared to injure his knee as he fell to the canvas, an apparent residue of the body punch that put him on the deck late in the previous stanza. To that point, Ortiz had seemingly won every round.

It was the 19th win inside the distance in as many opportunities for Ortiz who resides in nearby Grand Prairie and was making his first start with new trainer Manny Robles. McKinson was undefeated heading in, but had scored only two knockouts while building his record to 22-0.

Ortiz, ranked #1 at welterweight by the WBA and the WBO, pulled out of the March 19 bout after being diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder associated with over-training.

Ortiz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, says that Ortiz will fight the winner of Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford next assuming that the fight gets made, and if doesn’t get made, Ortiz’s next fight will be with one or the other. The WBA, which stamped tonight’s fight an eliminator, may push to have Ortiz fight their secondary title-holder, Eimantas Stanionis.

Co-Feature

Houston’s Marlen Esparza (13-1, 1 KO) successfully defended her WBA/WBC world flyweight title with a unanimous decision over plucky 4’11 ½” Venezuelan southpaw Eva Guzman who had won 14 straight coming in, albeit against soft opposition. The judges had it 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Guzman (19-2-1) was game, but just didn’t have the physical tools to overcome Esparza whose lone defeat came at the hands of talented Seneisa Estrada.

Other Fights of Note

In a 10-round match contested at the catchweight of 150 pounds, Blair “The Flair” Cobbs rebounded from his first defeat with a career-best performance, a wide decision over former WBO 140-pound world titlist Maurice Hooker. It was the second straight loss for Hooker who returned to the ring after a 17-month hiatus and came out flat. Cobbs put him on the canvas in the opening frame with a combination and decked him twice more with straight lefts in round two.

Things got somewhat dicey for Cobbs in round five when he suffered a bad gash on his forehead from an accidental head butt, but Hooker, who had stablemate Bud Crawford in his corner, hesitated to let his hands go and couldn’t reverse the tide. The judges had it 96-91 and 97-90 twice for the flamboyant Cobbs who improved to 16-1-1 (10). Hooker, a consensus 5/2 favorite, lost for the third time in his last five starts and slumped to 27-3-3.

In the opener to the main portion of the DAZN card, Uzbekistan’s Bektimir Melikuziev (10-1, 8 KOs), a super middleweight growing into a light heavyweight, dominated and stopped overmatched Sladan Janjanin. Melikuziev put Janjanin down with a body punch in the opening minute of the fight and scored two more knockdowns before the bout was halted at the 2:18 mark of round three.

This was Melikuziev’s third fight back after his shocking one-punch annihilation by Gabriel Rosado. Janjanin, a well-traveled Bosnian who fought three weeks ago in Massachusetts, declined to 32-12 and was stopped for the eighth time.

Also

Chicago welterweight Alex Martin (18-4, 6 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown to win a unanimous decision over 38-year-old Philadelphia journeyman Henry Lundy. The judges had it an unexpectedly wide 98-91, 97-92, 97-92.

Martin was coming off a points loss to McKinson and this bout was his reward for taking that fight on short notice. Lundy (31-11-1) has lost five of his last seven.

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a lightweight who appears to have a big upside, advanced to 11-0 (9 KOs) at the expense of Mexican trial horse Rodrigo Guerrero whose corner wisely pulled him out after five one-sided rounds. It was the ninth straight loss for Guerrero (26-15).

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Conlan Wins His Belfast Homecoming; Breezes Past Lackadaisical Marriaga

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“The Return of the Mick” was the label attached to tonight’s show at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reference was to local fan favorite Michael “Mick” Conlan who returned to his hometown in hopes of jump-starting his career after suffering his first pro loss in a brutal encounter with Leigh Wood.

In that bout, a strong “Fight of the Year contender, Conlan was narrowly ahead on all three cards heading into the 12th and final round when the roof fell in. Wood, who was making the first defense of his WBA world featherweight title on his home turf in Nottingham, knocked the favored Conlan unconscious and clear out of the ring.

This was the sort of fight that can shorten a man’s career. Hence the intrigue in Conlan’s homecoming fight tonight against Miguel Marriaga. On paper, the Colombian, a three-time world title challenger, was a stern test considering the circumstances.

To the contrary, Marriaga had no fire in his belly until the final round when he hit Conlan with a shot that buckled his knees. But, by then Conlan was so far ahead without overly exerting himself that there was virtually no chance of another meltdown.

While Conlan won lopsidedly, the scores – 99-89 and 99-88 twice – were somewhat misleading. True, “Mick” had Marriaga on the deck in rounds 7, 8, and 9, but the punches that put him there did not look particularly hard.

Conlan, 30, improved to 17-1 (8). Marriaga, 35, declined to 30-6.

After the fight, Conlan expressed the hope that Leigh Wood would give him a rematch.

Other Bouts of Note

In an entertaining 10-round welterweight scrap that could have gone either way, Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna (23-3-1, 6 KOs) rebounded from his defeat in Dubai to Regis Prograis (TKO by 6) with a hard-fought unanimous decision over 33-year-old Welshman Chris Jenkins (23-6-3). The judges favored the local fighter by scores of 97-94 and 96-95 twice.

Jenkins, a former British and Commonwealth title-holder, had the best of the early going, working the body effectively while frequently finding a home for his uppercut, but he could not sustain his advantage.

Thirty-four-year-old Belfast super middleweight Padraig McCrory who got a late start in boxing, scored the most important win of his career with a fifth-round stoppage of Marco Antonio Periban, a former world title challenger. McCrory had Periban on the deck three times – once in the second and twice in the fifth – before the bout was halted at the 2:14 mark of round five.

It was the fourth straight win inside the distance for McCrory who improved to 14-0 (8 KOs). Mexico’s Periban, who returned to the sport in April after missing all of 2020 and 2021, fell to 26-6-1.

Highly-touted welterweight Paddy Donovan improved to 9-0 (6) with an 8-round unanimous decision over Yorkshireman Tom Hall (10-3). The referee scored every round for Donovan, an Irish Traveler trained by Tyson Fury’s bosom buddy Andy Lee, the former world middleweight title-holder.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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