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The Brutal Efficiency of Canelo Alvarez

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On Saturday night, November 6, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez scored an eleventh-round knockout over Caleb Plant at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to secure the fourth and final belt in his quest to become the “undisputed” super-middleweight champion of the world.

Alvarez is widely regarded as the #1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world and boxing’s brightest star. Three months ago, SportsPro (a London-based company) released a study that listed him as the fourth “most marketable athlete in the world” (behind Simone Biles, Naomi Asaka, and Ashlyn Harris). The next-highest-ranked boxer was Anthony Joshua at #75. The study was keyed to social media metrics. Canelo has close to 18 million followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok and, according to SportPro, has generated more than 578 million impressions on these platforms.

In reality, the list is an indication of potential rather than true marketing power. For example, in 2020, SportPro named Ryan Garcia as the twelfth “most marketable athlete in the world.” LeBron James is now designated as #24. Most people would rather have LeBron’s marketing income than Garcia’s.

Canelo, now 31, turned pro at age 15 and has improved steadily throughout his career. He entered the ring to face Plant with a 56-1-2 (38 KOs) record, the sole loss coming against Floyd Mayweather eight years ago.

“I didn’t have the experience, the maturity,” Canelo said earlier this year about that fight. “I wasn’t the boxer I am today. Very different. That moment hurt a lot. But at that moment, I got to thinking, I’m not going to let this kill my dreams. Someday, I’m going to be the best boxer in the world. And now I am.”

One might add that, at age 15, Canelo was held to a draw by a fighter named Jorge Juarez (who finished his career with an 8-27-3 record). Only an idiot would suggest that this “blemish” on Canelo’s record diminishes his accomplishments as a fighter. The same is true of the loss to Mayweather.

Plant, age 29, came into the Canelo fight with a 21-0 (12 KOs) record and the IBF 168-pound belt around his waist. He has a compelling backstory focused on a hardscrabble upbringing in Ashland, Tennessee, and tells it with great drama.

Canelo wanted Plant’s belt. He’d won his first 168-pound title (WBA) against Rocky Fielding in 2018 and added the WBC and WBO straps against Callum Smith (2020) and Billy Joe Saunders (2021). Becoming a unified champion appealed to him.

When Canelo-Plant was first announced, it was undetermined which network would host the pay-per-view telecast. Canelo had fought his most recent six fights on DAZN with Golden Boy and Matchroom as his promoters. This would be a Premier Boxing Champions card, which meant that Fox or Showtime would handle the pay-per-view and DAZN would be out in the cold.

Most boxing observers expected that Fox would get the nod (as it had with previous Premier Boxing Champions offerings like Fury-Wilder II and III, Pacquiao-Thurman, Pacquiao-Ugas, and Errol Spence’s forays against Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia, and Shawn Porter). But Showtime sent a “don’t-take-us-for-granted” message to PBC impresario Al Haymon when it went into the Jake Paul business earlier this year, and Canelo-Plant wound up on Showtime Pay-Per-View.

Asked how he felt about changing promoters and networks, Canelo answered, “I just want to fight with everybody and have relationships with all the promoters and do the best fights out there. If I need to fight [on] Showtime with PBC, I’m good. If I need to fight [on] DAZN with Eddie Hearn, I’m good. I’m good with everyone, having a relationship with everybody.”

That made sense. But there was one misstep that Canelo’s team seemed to make in the negotiations for Canelo-Plant. And they’d made it before.

Plant’s purse for fighting Canelo was reported to be $10 million. That number was negotiated in significant measure as a consequence of the purses believed to have been paid to Canelo’s most recent five opponents – Danny Jacobs ($12 million), Sergey Kovalev ($12 million), Callum Smith ($6 million), Avni Yildirim ($2.5 million), and Billy Joe Saunders ($8 million).

This is an area where Floyd Mayweather got it right. There came a time when Mayweather told the world that the belts were largely irrelevant. People were paying to see Floyd Mayweather. If a fighter wanted to fight Floyd, he stood in line and accepted a purse (generally between $1 million and $3 million) that left the lion’s share and more for Floyd.

Canelo’s most recent fight (against Saunders) drew 66,065 paying fans to AT&T Stadium in Texas. There were also 989 complimentary tickets that night for a total attendance of 67,054. Plant’s most recent fight was against Caleb Truax at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles. Prior to that, he’d fought Vincent Feigenbutz at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. One might also note that Canelo’s two fights against Gennady Golovkin in Las Vegas generated a combined live gate in excess of $51 million.

It has been widely reported that PBC guaranteed Canelo “nearly $40 million” to fight Plant (which was in line with previous guarantees to Canelo for his fights on DAZN). There’s a school of thought that Canelo should be concerned with what he makes, not his opponents’ purses. Still, $10 million for Plant seemed excessive. Had Caleb beaten Canelo, he might have become a $10 million fighter. He wasn’t before they fought and he isn’t now.

The promotion moved into high gear at the September 21 kick-off press conference in Los Angeles. Plant was introduced first and stood on stage facing the audience. Canelo came out next, stood beside Plant, and made a point of not standing in Caleb’s space. Both men were wearing sun glasses. As pre-arranged, they then turned to face each other. Canelo took his glasses off. Plant moved into Canelo’s space, put his hands behind his back, and started jawing. Canelo responded. Plant said something Canelo didn’t like. Canelo gave Plant a two handed shove to the chest, pushing him back. Plant came forward, slapped at Canelo with his left hand, and missed. Canelo countered with a quick jab that jammed Plant’s sunglasses into Caleb’s cheek beneath his right eye and drew blood followed by a slapping right hand.

What caused the blow-up?

Plant later said that it happened “because he’s a bitch.”

Canelo said Plant suggested that Canelo had sexual intercourse with his own mother and noted, “He can say whatever he wants to me but not to my mom. And he swing first. I just push him, but he swing first. Then I do what I do.”

Meanwhile, when it was Plant’s turn to speak, he took the microphone and accused Canelo of being a “cheater.”

In February 2018, urine samples taken from Canelo by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) had tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance. Canelo denied wrongdoing, and the amount of the drug in his system was consistent with the inadvertent ingestion of tainted beef. But a boxer is responsible for what goes into his body. Canelo agreed to a six-month suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and paid $50,000 out of his own pocket for year-round VADA testing. There was no admission of wrongdoing on his part. But there was an acknowledgment that clenbuterol had been present in his system. Since then, Canelo has been tested more thoroughly by VADA than any boxer ever, always without complaint and never with an adverse test result.

“Did he get suspended for six months?” Plant asked rhetorically at the kick-off press conference. “Did he test positive? It’s not a ‘well, he said he is’ and ‘he said he ain’t.’ It’s not up for discussion. It’s not what I say. It’s what the commission said. It’s what the banned substance list said. I don’t want this to be in our sport. There’s no room for that in our sport. And you know, he got suspended for six months. So it is what it is. He’s a cheater.”

When it was Canelo’s turn to speak, he looked directly at Plant and said in English, “I just want to say something. You are not on my level. And you will see November 6. You don’t want to find out. I promise you. Thank you, everybody. I see you November 6. You know what I do.”

PBC wisely skipped the ritual, post-press-conference staredown. But thereafter, it sent out promotional material referencing the press conference itself as “epic” (presumably because of the altercation). “Epic” is a word that, in boxing circles, was once reserved for actual fights like Ali-Frazier III in Manila.

Plant was more measured than PBC in characterizing the physical confrontation between the two fighters. “It’s boxing,” he said. “How many times has that happened before us? How many times is that gonna happen after us? People make such a big deal out of that because it’s a headline and a way for you guys to promote whatever videos you all are making or whatever for the fight. But it’s just like, he pushed me; I got one on him; he got one on me; and that was it. I’ve been in worse scuffles than that. So, what’s the big deal, really?”

Title unification was the marketing message during fight week.

“Only five male fighters in the history of boxing have accomplished becoming undisputed champion,” Canelo said. “I want to be the sixth.”

Canelo’s big wins had come against Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin, Danny Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, and Billy Joe Saunders. Plant’s big wins had been against Jose Uzcategui, Mike Lee, Vincent Feigenbutz, and Caleb Truax. With that as background, Canelo opened as a 7-to-1 betting favorite and the odds moved slightly higher during fight week.

Plant voiced optimism throughout the proceedings:

*         “I know that people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m winning on November 6. All those people who tell me that I can’t do something, you live believable lives and you do believable things. I promised myself that I was going to run this all the way to the top with no problem crashing and burning along the way. I set out to live an unbelievable life and accomplish unbelievable things. The people who doubt me are the reason that I’m here.”

*         “I can’t focus on what other people say about me. If I listened to the doubters, I wouldn’t even be here. People are going to say what they’re going to say. But I get the final say, and I can’t wait to prove everything in the ring.”

*         “The moment isn’t going to be too big for me. The closer we get, the smaller the moment feels.”

Meanwhile, Canelo predicted that Plant wouldn’t last eight rounds and said, “I respect his skills. He’s a good boxer. He boxes well. He’s got a good fast jab, good combinations. He’s tall, and it’s going to be rough in the early rounds. It’s not an easy fight. But I have the skills and I have the experience of being with fighters of all kinds of styles in the ring. I’m very confident that I can do it. Not confident in a bad way; just confident in what I know and what I can do. As the fight progresses, I am going to be able to get him out of there.”

Still, this wasn’t a computer game. Nothing in boxing is preordained. A fighter has to prove himself anew every time he enters the ring. And Canelo knew that.

Now a confession. I didn’t watch the fight live. I’m a big Canelo Alvarez fan. But I don’t like boxing’s pay-per-view model. And with Anthony Dirrell vs. Marcos Hernandez (who now has two wins in his last seven fights) as the chief supporting bout, I decided I’d track Canelo-Plant through online reports and watch it on YouTube afterward rather than spend $79.99 to see it in real time.

At 11:30 PM eastern time, I went online to Boxing Scene to see where things stood. Dirrell had knocked out Hernandez shortly after 11:00 PM. Most likely, it would be a while before Canelo-Plant started. I checked back at 11:50. There was still no indication that the fight had begun. I turned to ESPN.com and read that the ringwalks were underway.

Back to Boxing Scene. Keith Idec scored round one for Plant and gave rounds two, three, and four to Canelo. ESPN was lagging behind on its scorecard but offered several sentences of commentary for each round that it scored.

At the end of eight rounds, Boxing Scene and ESPN each had Canelo ahead 78-74 . . . Then, at 12:39 AM, Boxing Scene reported, “Canelo drops Plant with hard punches in eleventh and then finished him off with another series of big shots to knock Plant down and out with the fight being waved off by the referee.”

 

Several minutes later, I saw the knockout on YouTube. On Sunday, I watched the entire fight on one of several YouTube postings.

Coming into the bout, Plant had seemed to think that his skills were sufficient that he could will himself to victory. But that was a false hope.

Canelo has a will of iron too. And he’s a professional. He always comes into fights in shape. He’s a superb boxer, seamlessly blending defense with offense. He has a great chin. And now he has “man strength.”

Canelo has carried his power with him – and then some – while moving up in weight. He carries his power late in fights. And trainer Eddy Reynoso brings out the best in him

 For most of Canelo-Plant, Canelo was stalking with Caleb in retreat. Plant tried to survive and score points when he could. But he was overmatched. Plan A wasn’t working for Caleb, and there was no Plan B. Canelo was quicker. Canelo hit harder. Canelo’s arsenal was more varied. Canelo took his time. He was disciplined and patient. As the fight wore on, his body work took a toll. Ultimately, he beat Plant into submission.

The end came in round eleven. A left hook followed by a brutal right uppercut (the most damaging blow in the sequence) and another left hook as Plant was sagging occasioned the first knockdown of Caleb’s career. He stopped his fall by thrusting both gloves against the canvas and rose up.

“Do you want to fight?” referee Russell Mora asked.

“Yeah,” Plant answered.

Caleb said it like he meant it. But he had nothing left. Canelo chased him around the ring, pinned him against the ropes, and knocked him down again with three crushing right hands – two up top and the third to the body as Plant was falling.

It was over.

After the fight, the fighters exchanged words of respect in the ring. Then Plant was taken to University Medical Center for observation. As of this writing, he has not commented publicly on his defeat.

As for what comes next, Canelo says that, after four fights in eleven months, his body needs rest. Most likely, he’ll return to the ring on May 7, 2022 (Cinco de Mayo weekend).

Meanwhile, boxing fans have heard a lot in recent years about how Mexican fans have been slow to embrace Canelo in comparison with Julio Cesar Chavez. Sometimes one needs distance to judge the full measure of greatness. Looking back over the past decade, it’s clear that Canelo has established himself as a great fighter. The Mexican people should be proud of him.

Indeed, Canelo might be the greatest fighter to ever come out of Mexico. But when asked to compare himself with other Mexican ring greats, he says simply, “I’m doing my history. Other fighters do their history. I don’t want to compare myself to other fighters. I do things for myself, my history. The goal is to be an all-time great.”

He has already reached that goal. The question now is, “How much better will he get?”

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published 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. In 2019, he was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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This Former College Cheerleader Just May be Boxing’s Second-Best Heavyweight

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Here’s something that you probably don’t know about Joe Joyce. The British bomber was once an exchange student at California’s Sacramento State University and during his enrollment, which was in the fall semester (football and basketball season), he joined the cheerleading squad.

Wish we had a picture to share, but we don’t. In general, male cheerleaders tend to be not much taller than their female counterparts — think the body type of a gymnast – and the six-foot-six Joyce, whose thick torso appears to have been hewn from oak, must have been quite the sight.

Joyce studied fine arts at Sac State, his major at London’s Middlesex University where he earned his degree. As an exchange student in California, it figured that Joyce would find a physical activity to keep him occupied when he wasn’t studying or in class. He’s an accomplished painter, we have been told, but one doesn’t associate him with an activity that one performs while sitting down.

Currently ranked #1 by the WBO and #3 by the WBA, the undefeated (13-0, 12 KOs) Joyce, a former Olympic silver medalist, has the most diversified athletic background of any boxer on the planet. Before boxing became all-consuming, he was immersed in rugby, swimming, track and field (“long jump, triple jump, shot put, you name it”) and martial arts.

It’s hard to transition into boxing from a different sport – there are very few success stories – but apparently having sampled a wide range of athletic endeavors is useful. A match between Joe and 10-0 Jared Anderson, whose exertions have been applied exclusively to boxing, would provide an interesting contrast.

Anderson would have youth on his side, but the nectar of youth was of no help to Daniel Dubois when Joe Joyce caught up with him last November at the historic Church House in Westminster. Dubois, 12 years the younger man, had no antidote for Joe’s steady diet of left jabs and bowed out in the 10th round with a busted eye socket. The upset earned Joyce, now 36 years old, the British, European, and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.

A fight between Juggernaut Joe and Jared Anderson is unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever. Rematches with Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk are closer at hand.

Rematches?

Indeed. One can find 66 amateur bouts for Joe Joyce documented at boxrec. The first entry is Anthony Joshua. They met back in 2011 and Joyce failed to survive the opening round. Three standing 8-counts terminated the match.

Joyce recalls that he made the mistake of circling into Joshua’s line of fire, rather than away from it. He had just got done fighting a southpaw on the same bill and had precious little time to recalibrate for an opponent with an orthodox style.

Joyce opposed Oleksandr Usyk in March of 2013 in an England vs. Ukraine event at London’s venerated York Hall and lost a 5-round decision. This would be one of only two setbacks he suffered in 16 engagements under the rubric of the World Series of Boxing.

Joyce didn’t expect Usyk to beat Joshua when they met this past September before a crowd of 65,000 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. “I imagined Joshua was a bit too strong for him,” he says. But Joe wasn’t greatly surprised either. “After the first round, I could see how it would go. Usyk makes you box how he wants you to box.”

Joyce doesn’t yet have an opponent for his next fight. There are reports that it will be Kubrat Pulev, but Joe says all he knows is what he’s read on social media. Tony Yoka’s name has also been bandied about. A match between him and the 29-year-old Frenchman, currently 11-0, would also profit from the rematch-angle.

Joyce was the busier fighter when he fought Yoka in the finals of the super heavyweight division at the 2016 Rio Summer Games, but Yoka walked away with the gold medal by virtue of winning a split decision.

“I could sense something dodgy was going on in the dressing room [before the fight],” he told this reporter. And while he refused to say flat-out that he thought the fight was fixed, he didn’t have to, as Joyce vs. Yoka was one of 11 cited by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren in his blockbuster 2021 report which gave credence to the scuttlebutt that the outcomes of some of the matches in Rio were manipulated for money or political favors.

Joe Joyce’s biggest fan is his mother, Marvel Opara, and it’s a mutual admiration society. Joe proudly notes that she has hiked Mount Kilimanjaro and ridden with Joe on a tandem bicycle through the streets of Thailand despite being almost completely blind. She raised Joe and his little brother by herself when her Scotch-Irish husband left the fold, but Joe and his father Philip — who remarried and established a new family – have a warm relationship. After his parents split, Joe saw his dad every Wednesday and every other weekend.

Joyce signed with David Haye’s Hayemaker Ringstar Promotions coming out of the amateur ranks. Haye was still active, having returned to the sport after a 42-month hiatus, and Ismael Salas was training him. The globetrotting Salas, a legend in his native Cuba, prepared Joyce for his match with Daniel Dubois but wasn’t around to work the corner, having been detached by the authorities after testing positive for COVID.

Joyce and Salas have hooked up again in Las Vegas where Salas, who is none the worse for wear, operates a boxing academy. Joyce and his attractive girlfriend Nadine Davison arrived in Las Vegas in mid-November for a month-long stay. Salas puts Joe through his paces each afternoon. Here in the states, Joe previously trained at Abel Sanchez’s compound in Big Bear.

Joe Joyce isn’t getting any younger, but heavyweights tend to have a longer shelf life than fighters in other divisions and Joe anticipates that he will keep fighting until the age of 40. And then what?

“I have thought about getting into coaching [when I leave the sport],” he says. “I can earn money selling my paintings and perhaps I have a future in punditry.” (The reference here is to employment as TV color commentator for which Joyce would seem to be ideally suited, although being naturally soft-spoken, he would probably have to ratchet his voice up a notch.)

We would suggest another alternative, graduate school at Sacramento State University. We hear there’s an opening on the cheerleading squad.

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The Day Canelo Got Buzzed

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The Day Canelo Got Buzzed

Puerto Rican Jose Miguel Cotto, the older brother of future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto, retired in 2012 with a fine record of 33-4-1. He was stopped just once, by streaking Juan Diaz (28-0 at the time) and fought a number of high-level competitors including Shane Gannon (22-6), Freddy Cruz (51-19-8), Pantan Narongwet (30-2-1), Ilido Julio (39-15-1), and later Paulie Malignaggi (28-4).

On May 1, 2010, his opponent was Saul Alvarez (31-0-1). Cotto (31-1-1 coming in) was short and stocky, fought in an orthodox style, and possessed a strong chin. It would turn out to be Jose’s career-defining battle.

The fight was televised on HBO PPV from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and was designed as a coming out party for the young Alvarez—hereafter to be known as “Canelo.” The fight was the co-feature to the Floyd Mayweather vs. Shane Mosley fight on a Cinco De Mayo weekend and garnered tremendous exposure.

Once the fight started, the fans received an early shock as Cotto caught the young Mexican redhead flush with a left-hook at the round’s half-way point. It sent Canelo stumbling back into the ropes—in fact, had the ropes not held him up, it could have been ruled a knockdown by referee Tony Weeks. Sensing the kill, Cotto attacked with several follow-up shots, including at least two right hands that landed flush from the other side.

Everyone invested in this fight (and in Canelo), not to mention his rabid Mexican fans and this writer, were watching in disbelief. How could this be happening? Canelo had just been buzzed and almost decked. Was an upset in the making? Was the build-up bogus?

“I know the first round was a little scary but I gained my confidence as the rounds went on.” — Canelo

And come back he did as he regrouped and floored Cotto in round two with what would later become his signature punch—the uppercut. Alvarez then picked up the pace, breaking down the rugged Cotto with great combos and accurate power shots. The fight soon became one-sided. Finally, in the ninth round, Canelo maneuvered his opponent into a corner, trapped and stunned him and then launched a barrage of malefic right hands (more than a dozen, interspersed with a few set-up lefts). The one-sided barrage forced Weeks to step in and end matters. The scorecards through the completed rounds read 78-73 across the board, all for Canelo Alvarez.

Canelo is currently 57-1-2 and is the top PFP fighter in boxing. He holds the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO world super middleweight titles and seems poised to move up to cruiserweight and fight Ilunga Makabu for the WBC cruiserweight title. If he does and wins, he will become a five-division titleholder. And yet despite this rugged schedule, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has been “buzzed” only once.

“Miguel Cotto’s brother can make you do the chicken dance, but I can’t? Okay.” — Caleb Plant

Ted Sares enjoys writing about boxing. He can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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It’s Just Another Day for Birthday Boy Ben Davison, Boxing’s Hottest Young Trainer

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Happy birthday to British boxing coach Ben Davison who turned 29 today, Nov. 29. Davison is in Las Vegas where many people come to celebrate a birthday, but for him it’s merely another day at the office.

Actually, he’s currently plying his trade at two “offices.” In the morning, he’s at the Top Rank gym where his main focus is preparing unified 140-pound world champion Josh Taylor for his Feb. 26 title defense in Glasgow against Jack Catterall. In the afternoon he joins the horde at Bones Adams gym where Devin Haney is putting the finishing touches on his preparation for Saturday’s encounter with Jojo Diaz at the MGM Grand Garden, a Matchroom promotion that will be live-streamed around the world on DAZN. Davison will be in Haney’s corner assisting Haney’s dad Bill Haney.

Few people had heard of Ben Davison before April of 2018 when Tyson Fury introduced Ben as his new trainer at a glitzy London press conference to announce Fury’s comeback fight with sacrificial lamb Sefer Seferi. At that juncture, the Gypsy King had been out of the ring for 30 months during which he battled depression and addictions and allowed his weight to balloon to almost 400 pounds.

It seemed odd to many people that Fury, who was previously trained by his uncle Peter Fury, would choose an obscure trainer, a man younger than himself, to prepare him for his comeback. The presumption was that he was throwing a bone to the fellow that helped him get back in shape.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of boxing trainers. One is primarily a conditioner and the other a strategist whose strength is devising a battle plan. Boxing pundits, who knew little about Ben Davison other than his connection to Tyson Fury, rucked Ben into the first category.

Davison lived in Tyson Fury’s home for 14 months during which he oversaw the greatest renaissance in boxing history in the words of Daily Mail writer Simon Jones. But Davison was no generic physical fitness instructor. “I would study two, three, four fights of Deontay Wilder every day,” he told this reporter, recollecting the months he spent with Fury preceding the first Fury-Wilder fight.

When viewing a tape, says Davison, it’s important to throw out all preconceptions regarding what a fighter does well and what he does not do so well. “Casual fans tend to see only the punches,” he says. “They miss the subtleties.”

This doesn’t sound like the musing of a one-dimensional boxing coach.

Following his bout with Otto Wallin, Fury replaced Davison with SugarHill Steward, previously known as Javan “Sugar” Hill, the nephew and protégé of the renowned Kronk Gym maestro Emanuel Steward. Ben’s pride was wounded, but he did not let the disappointment color his feelings about Tyson Fury. “We will always be friends,” he says.

Davison could have stayed on with Team Fury, albeit in a secondary role to Steward, but he had another fighter under his wing in Fury’s cousin, Billy Joe Saunders, and new opportunities were opening up. He chose to move on.

A bantamweight from Glasgow, Scotland, Lee McGregor, had approached him about becoming his primary coach. Davison was now free to give McGregor the proper attention. And as luck would have it, McGregor’s best buddy was Josh Taylor who had become disenchanted with his father/son management team of Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan.

Lee McGregor was 9-0 when Davison entered the picture. He’s now 11-0 and set to defend his European title on Dec. 18 with Armenia’s Narek Abgaryan in the opposite corner. Josh Taylor was fresh off his grueling battle with Regis Prograis in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series when he severed his tie with the McGuigans. The Scotsman then owned two pieces of the 140-pound world title and under Davison’s tutelage he went on to win a hard-earned decision over Jose Ramirez, thereby acquiring the other two pieces and becoming only the sixth boxer of the four-belt era to become an undisputed champion.

Nottingham’s Leigh Wood would be Ben’s next title-holder. On July 31 of this year, in his second fight with Davison, Wood wrested the WBA world featherweight diadem from Can Xu with a 12th-round stoppage. Wood was comfortably ahead on the cards going into the final round.

Davison’s relationship with Devin Haney was born out of a chance encounter with the boxer at Jorge Capetillo’s gym in Las Vegas. Capetillo was Tyson Fury’s cut man for Fury’s bout with Otto Wallin.

Ben struck up a conversation with Devin after watching the fighter beat the tar out of two sparring partners. As they were discussing the finer points of boxing, Haney called his dad over to give a listen. The elder Haney was impressed and when Devin entered the ring to fight Jorge Linares, there was Ben Davison working alongside Bill Haney in Devin Haney’s corner.

It has been noted that all of Davison’s marquee fighters were well-formed when he took them under his wing. For example, Leigh Wood had been a pro for almost 10 years before hooking up with him. This has led skeptics to wonder if he can build a fighter from scratch. Mark Dickinson, one of Ben’s newest charges, may provide the answer.

A highly decorated amateur, Dickinson has only one pro fight under his belt. He eliminated his opponent in 36 seconds. His potential is such that Davison did not leave him behind when he jetted off to Las Vegas with Team Josh Taylor.

There have been two important fights during Davison’s current stateside stay, both of which have implications for fighters with whom he is involved.

There has been talk of Josh Taylor moving up to welterweight to challenge Terence Crawford. That match may yet to come to fruition although Davison concedes that it became a harder fight to make when Crawford announced that he was leaving Top Rank.

Many people were upset at Kenny Porter, Shawn Porter’s father and trainer, for stopping the Crawford-Porter fight. The stoppage, which came in round 10, struck many as premature and the elder Porter made no friends when he rationalized his behavior by saying that he wasn’t satisfied with the way that his son had prepared.

Davison is of the opinion that father knew best. “We don’t know what went on at Shawn’s training camp. Kenny may have seen some things that he hadn’t seen before. Shawn was becoming fatigued and when a fighter becomes fatigued, he becomes more reckless and is thus more vulnerable. So, what was the point of continuing?”

Davison also refuses to say anything negative about Teofimo Lopez who was on the wrong end of a big upset this past Saturday in New York. “I would never kick a man while he is down,” says Davison. “He probably had a lot going on outside the ring the last year.”

The Lopez- Kambosos shocker opened new vistas, at least in theory.

Before he stepped into the ring with boxing’s newest Cinderella Man, Teofimo was contemplating a move to 140 where his most attractive opponent would have been Josh Taylor (assuming Taylor gets by Jack Catterall). That match is still live, but now Devin Haney suddenly has a new option should he get by Jojo Diaz on Saturday. A match between Haney and multiple-belt champion George Kambosos would be a delicious pairing and the Aussie appears to be on board with it although he would be chalked the underdog. In fact, Matchroom has arranged a meet-and-greet between Kambosos and credentialed media this coming Thursday in Las Vegas.

Back in London, more exactly Essex, Ben Davison runs the MTK Performance Center, a gym that shares space in the same building with the electrical testing company founded by his father. Ben spends a lot of time on the road, needless to say, but he’s reached the stage in his career when he can afford to hire someone to mind the store when he is out of town and pay several assistants to lighten his workload wherever he happens to be.

One of those assistants is Lee Wylie whose primary role is that of a video analyst. If the name seems familiar, that’s because Wylie’s byline has appeared in several online boxing magazines, including right here at The Sweet Science! In common with former TSS writer Frank Lotierzo, Wylie has a keen eye; he sees things when he watches a fight that aren’t apparent to laymen and Ben Davison is now the beneficiary of his insights.

If you happen to see Mr. Davison in the next few days, wish him a belated happy birthday. Enjoy the tailpiece of your twenties, sir, life comes at you fast.

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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