Friday, September 4, 2020

SI Boxing Podcast

I joined Chris Mannix's SI Boxing podcast this week, which also featured journalist Michael Woods. We discussed the Canelo/DAZN drama, the Charlo brothers and their upcoming fights, and what should be next for Tim Tszyu. To listen to the podcast, click here or here. The podcast can also be viewed on DAZN starting Sunday, September 6th. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Punch 2 the Face Radio

Boxing is back in force and this week's Punch 2 the Face podcast embraces its return. We recapped Ramirez-Postol. Should we be concerned by Ramirez's performance? Is Erislandy Lara still one of the best at 154? We looked ahead to this week's fight action. We also talked about the latest shenanigans from the WBA and discussed the most recent Canelo/DAZN drama. 

To listen to the podcast, click on the links below: 


Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio #189.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

SNB Stock Report 8-30-20

After a busy month of fight action, it's time for another edition of the SNB Stock Report. See which fighters' stock went up (+), down (-) or remained unchanged (NC). To read more about the Whyte-Povetkin and Alvarez-Smith fights, click here

Shawn Porter (+)

Photo Courtesy of Sean Michael Ham

In his first ring action since last year's thrilling fight against Errol Spence, Shawn slugged his way to a shutout against Sebastian Formella. Porter dazzled with combination punching on the inside and exhibited solid technical boxing skills on the outside. This was always going to be a marking time bout for Porter, but he looked very sharp and didn't fight down to the level of his competition. Expect Porter to be back in the welterweight title picture in 2021.

Erislandy Lara (NC)

Erislandy Lara remains a formidable fighter in the junior middleweight division. This month he boxed his way to a unanimous decision against overmatched Greg Vendetti. Lara's timing was off at points early in the fight and he wasn't always able to stop Vendetti from getting in close. However, he got the best of the action with straight left hands, left uppercuts and right hooks. At 37, it's a fair question to ask if Lara's reflexes are still at their peak form, but we're going to need to see a much better opponent than Vendetti to find out that answer. 

Alfredo Angulo (-)

Many fight fans have been calling for Angulo to retire for a number of years. His physical skills have declined and he's taken far too many heavy blows. However, he had a nice come-from-behind victory against Peter Quillin last year, which was supposed to set up a meaningful fight against Caleb Truax. But Truax had to pull out of that matchup for health reasons and Angulo wound up facing late-replacement Vladimir Hernandez. After a slow start, Angulo slugged his way back into the fight, but he did slow down in the final two rounds. He wound up losing a unanimous decision, but more importantly, he was hit with hundreds of additional hard shots throughout the fight. He's now 38 and if he had been harboring any dreams of finding his way back into the title picture, that reality is now up in smoke.  

Angelo Leo (+)

Leo was supposed to fight Stephen Fulton for a vacant belt at 122 lbs., but Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 the week of the fight. Southpaw Tramaine Williams stepped in on short notice and despite a radical difference in opponent style, Leo was able to impress. Taking a few rounds to assess to Williams's hand speed and movement, Leo eventually had success on the inside with a merciless body attack. He also displayed an exceptional ability to cut off the ring, nullifying Williams's foot speed advantage. Leo won via a unanimous decision and put his name into the hat as another top fighter in the deep junior featherweight division. 

Ra'eese Aleem (+)

Every now and then an unheralded veteran fighter will suddenly emerge on the scene and force the boxing industry to take notice. Thirty certainly isn't an age for most junior featherweights to make an initial impression; that's when many smaller-weight fighters are already comfortably in their decline phase. However, Aleem, who had been boxing mostly in the Midwest and Pennsylvania circuits, made a significant statement by stopping Marcus Bates in his Showtime Championship Boxing debut. Aleem put forth an impressive power-punching display and he also demonstrated significant skills both on the inside and outside. With his electric performance, he'll certainly have another notable opportunity soon.  

Jose Ramirez (-)

Ramirez looked like he was in peak form during an impressive performance against Maurice Hooker last July. Since then, a scheduled fight with Viktor Postol was cancelled twice on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, back into the ring after 13 months, Ramirez struggled against Postol's clever boxing from the outside. Ramirez did have a few notable moments in the seventh and eighth rounds where he hurt Postol with left hooks against the ropes. But for the most part, he seemed to fight Postol to a standstill, with neither fighter truly able to assert his will upon the action. Ramirez wound up winning a majority decision. It wasn't a robbery, but the unified junior welterweight champion did not look commanding or convincing in the ring. He will still have an opportunity to become the undisputed 140-lb. champ in a future fight against Josh Taylor, but Ramirez's career momentum took a hit with his inconsistent showing against Postol. 

Viktor Postol (+)

At the age of 36, Postol was supposed to present a couple of challenges to Jose Ramirez, but few, if any, expected him to win the fight. Yet after 12 rounds, the actual winner of the contest was very much in doubt. More than a few on social media thought that he had jabbed and moved his way to a close win (count me in this group). Although Postol lost by majority decision, he demonstrated that he's still an elite junior welterweight. With a different judging panel, he certainly could have had his hands raised at the end of the night. 

Katie Taylor (+)

Photo Courtesy of Mark Robinson

Katie Taylor has now boxed 20 rounds against Delfine Persoon and has come away with disputed victories in both fights. Without getting into the intricacies of scoring, both Taylor-Persoon bouts have been among the best women's boxing fights that I've seen. In my opinion both boxers have been elevated by their performances. Taylor-Persoon is just one of those matchups that stylistically will lead to close verdicts on the scorecards. From my vantage point, I thought that Taylor boxed a little sharper in the rematch and used her legs to better effect. My scorecard read 96-94 for Taylor; however, I don't think that her victory was definitive by any means. But ultimately, the fight was fantastic, and sometimes that's more important than the minutiae of scoring criteria. 

Delfine Persoon (+)

It's long been a working theory of mine that the best way to fight expert, polished boxers is to dispense with any notion of trying to match their skills. Persoon doesn't possess the pretty jabs, textbook left hook, or foot speed of Katie Taylor, but she has specific dimensions that will always bother her. Persoon's relentless aggression forces Taylor to fight at a pace (faster) and a distance (closer) that is uncomfortable for her. In addition, Persoon is wonderful in the clinch, utilizing her physicality and maneuvering her body to get off chopping power shots at close range. It's a shame that Taylor and Persoon fought only two-minute rounds. In so many of their rounds Taylor dominated the first half and Persoon came back in the final minute. A third minute could have provided a definitive winner in both bouts.  

David Benavidez (-)

On one hand David Benavidez took care of business this month by defeating Alexis Angulo in an impressive, one-sided beat down. But "business" is the key word, as far as it concerns Benavidez. He missed weight by almost three pounds prior to the fight and wound up losing his belt on the scales, the second time in his brief professional career where he has lost a world title outside of the ring. Benavidez has now earned the reputation of being unreliable, which is not a positive development for him. It's unclear if Benavidez can even safely make super middleweight going forward. If he can, he may still get a fight with titleholder Caleb Plant in 2021, but he won't have the same financial leverage that he would have had as a champion. 

Sebastian Fundora (+)

Last year Fundora had a difficult matchup against Jamontay Clark. Fundora built an early lead, but somehow let Clark, whom he had hurt multiple times, come back into the fight to earn a draw. Did Fundora have enough physical strength on his lanky frame? Was he unprepared for Clark's lateral movement? Facing former contender Nathaniel Gallimore this month, Fundora put all those questions aside for now and impressed in all aspects against a much different opponent. Not only was his punch selection, power and work rate fantastic, but he also showed a new-found ability to use his physicality to rough up Gallimore in the trenches. Fundora won via a sixth-round knockout. It's still anyone's guess as to which division Fundora will ultimately settle into, but he's starting to grasp more advanced aspects of boxing in the ring. If he keeps making steady progress, he's going to be a tough out. 

Israil Madrimov (NC)

Madrimov defeated veteran Eric Walker this month in an overall strange performance. After a fast start, Madrimov seemed to tire by the fourth round. In the seventh and eighth rounds he was getting hit by a lot of shots. Then the fight got weird. In the ninth round, Madrimov landed a leaping left that knocked Walker down. During the follow through of the punch, Madrimov's shoulder also connected with Walker. Referee Gary Ritter ruled that the knockdown was due to the foul, which was a questionable call at best. After a long break, the fight resumed and Madrimov dominated the remainder of the action. He would win a unanimous decision. Madrimov possesses incredible athletic talent, but his lack of defensive fundamentals is problematic at this point in his young professional career. Walker routinely landed with simple one-two's. And it's surprising that with Madrimov's substantial amateur career, that he still has such defensive shortcomings. Madrimov's team has talked about getting a title shot as soon as possible at junior middleweight. In my opinion he still needs three or four fights before he's ready for that level.

Tim Tszyu (+)

In a big fight in Australia, Tszyu, the son of the former champion, Kostya, stopped recent welterweight champion Jeff Horn. In just his 16th pro fight, Tszyu fought like a seasoned veteran, handling Horn's roughhouse techniques and grappling with aplomb. Tszyu featured a pulverizing left hook and a commitment to body punching. Like Madrimov, Tszyu is one of the up-and-comers in the 154-lb. division. And although he possesses offensive firepower, he would do well to fight a legitimate contender or two before he gets a title shot. To this point he hasn't had enough competitive rounds in his professional development.  

Rolando Romero (-)

Romero made his Showtime Championship Boxing debut this month against Jackson Marinez, and quite frankly, he didn't look ready for the big stage. Loading up on every shot, Romero seemed befuddled by Marinez's polished boxing skills and athleticism. Romero did connect with some tasty power punches, but there weren't enough of them. Romero was awarded the victory, but it was a robbery. It's never a good sign when the WBA President immediately tweets out that a rematch should be considered based on the scoring of the fight. At 24, Romero still has time to develop additional aspects of his game. He has to learn to set up shots strategically. For many opponents, one shot will not suffice. 

Otto Wallin (+)

Wallin, who gave Tyson Fury some problems last year, stopped Travis Kauffman in the fifth round of their fight this month. Wallin is one of those fighters who doesn't necessarily pass the "eye test," but he can fight. Although he doesn't possess big-time power, his punch volume, jab and movement are unique factors in a division where many fighters would prefer to be stationary. He needs additional rounds against credible heavyweights to assess just what his ceiling could be, but he has some interesting raw tools. It wouldn't surprise me to see him spring a notable upset or two in the near future.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Opinions and Observations: Whyte-Povetkin, Alvarez-Smith

A boxing match contains hundreds of sequences where each fighter attempts to assert supremacy over his or her opponent. Whether it's to land a shot, block a punch, counter, leave the pocket unscathed, find a way to rest, clinch, or perform a number of other maneuvers; in each moment, most often, only one fighter will prevail.

The concluding sequence of Alexander Povetkin's unforgettable fifth-round knockout of Dillian Whyte was one such moment, and one of the best knockouts in recent heavyweight boxing. Povetkin initiated the action with a throw-away left jab. Immediately after throwing the punch, he started dipping to his left; he knew what was coming. By the time Whyte had missed his ineffectual counter right hand, Povetkin had already maneuvered his 40-year old body under and to the side of Whyte's right arm, his last line of protection. Povetkin had now put himself in a perfect position to land a free shot. And he unspooled a devastating left uppercut against a defenseless Whyte. That was the fight. Game over. 

Photo Courtesy of Mark Robinson

Ultimately the sequence demonstrated Povetkin's mastery over his opponent. Like a chess master, the entire sequence played out in his mind before he initiated a single move. He knew what to expect and how to position his body to get the free shot. It was a perfect example of Ring IQ. Povetkin understood how to defeat the opponent in front of him. And despite being 40 years old and physically on the slide, he still possessed the agility, reflexes and timing to execute. 

What made the knockout even more stunning was the action in the previous round, where Whyte had dropped Povetkin twice with left hands (a hook and then an uppercut). In truth, those weren't even Whyte's best power shots, but Povetkin's punch resistance had looked poor throughout the fight. He seemed unsteady at a few points earlier in the fight, and especially vulnerable whenever Whyte landed his right hand to the temple.

Until the final sequence in the fifth, Whyte had fought ably. Featuring a contained offensive approach that didn't allow Povetkin to get off too many counters, Whyte was effectively opportunistic with his output: a few jabs here, some nice right hands there, a left hook to remind Povetkin of his power. He was gradually breaking down his opponent in a responsible way. 

The ultimate distinction between the two boxers was that Povetkin had actualized and executed a clever boxing move for which Whyte was unprepared. The final sequence reminded me of Jermall Charlo's win over Julian Williams, where Charlo blocked a punch and then countered with a right uppercut at the perfect moment against an unprotected opponent. It was a superior boxing move, as was Povetkin's. These are the types of moves that cement world-class status. It's the combination of ring intelligence, daring, physical talent, reflexes and execution. It would be unfair to call Whyte's performance poor on Saturday, but there was no doubt that he was bettered in a pivotal exchange, and one exchange can often be all that it takes in boxing. 

Photo Courtesy of Mark Robinson

At his advanced age and a veteran of many wars in the ring, Povetkin most likely won't have too many more nights like Saturday's. He's undersized against the top of the division. His physical dimensions force him to win fights on the inside, which invites oncoming fire from hard-hitting opponents. And he certainly didn't look like he was taking shots well against Whyte. 

But whatever else occurs throughout the rest of Povetkin's career, he has created an indelible moment for himself, and for boxing as a whole. And let's make no mistake; the sport needs these moments. Badly. 

Few modern heavyweights would be able to come back from being dropped twice to win a fight in the next round. And even in a state of physical decline, Povetkin demonstrated an acute boxing brain and an ability to focus under extreme duress. He also reminded the boxing industry that fights are still won in the ring. Underestimate a capable opponent at your own peril. And if you're a boxer in tough looking ahead to future matchups, you very well could find yourself looking up at the rafters, or in this case, the constellations on a clear summer's night. 

***      

When Joe Smith Jr. arrived on the boxing scene in a meaningful way, he was a little-known, 26-year-old club fighter from Long Island who worked construction. He was no one's idea of a prospect. He was brought in to lose against Andrzej Fonfara, who was in the middle of a nice run in the top-ten of the light heavyweight division. Smith was thought to be tough, a possessor of a decent punch, but not much more. By the end of 2016, he had destroyed Fonfara in one round and sent the legend Bernard Hopkins crashing out of the ring through the ropes and into retirement. Hopkins was hit so hard, and shaken up so much that he legitimately thought that some kind of foul must have occurred. 

But in recent years, Smith's technical limitations, especially on defense, were exposed by Sullivan Barrera and Dmitry Bivol. Despite dropping Barrera early in their fight, Sullivan broke Smith's jaw in the second round. Smith demonstrated his toughness by lasting to the final bell, but after the jaw injury, he wasn't a factor throughout the rest of the bout. And with the exception of a flurry late in the fight, Smith had few answers for Bivol's movement and polished boxing skills. 

On Saturday, Smith was facing Eleider Alvarez, a former champion who had excellent boxing skills, sneaky power and a sturdy chin. The conventional wisdom surrounding the fight was that Alvarez had the superior technical boxing skills and was the all-around better talent, but that Smith certainly had the punching power and activity rate to give Alvarez problems. However, the more that Smith came forward, the more opportunities that provided Alvarez to land his blistering counters. 

But after watching Saturday's fight, there wasn't one thing that Alvarez did better than Smith. Not a single thing. In a shocking development, Smith outboxed Alvarez, with new-look moves and sequences that belied his previous reputation as merely a "banger." He hooked off the jab, double jabbed his way into perfect punching range, threw lead left uppercuts in tight quarters, and blocked most of Alvarez's overhand rights. Smith demonstrated a level of polish in the ring on Saturday that he had never exhibited in previous fights. As Alvarez waited for the perfect opening to land a counter, Smith continued to punch at will, but he maintained his balance and rarely found himself out of position. To the surprise of Alvarez, there was little that was crude with Smith's work. 

Counterpunchers often invite volume because it can lead to opportunities and openings. However, when that volume is educated, piercing and unpredictable, the counterpuncher will find himself in a world of shit, and that is what happened to Alvarez in the ninth round when suddenly he found himself through the ropes and unable to continue. A Smith howitzer of a right hand landed fully flush on Alvarez after the start of the round. Smith followed up with a hard left which made Alvarez's legs betray him. And Alvarez was done. 

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

Eleider Alvarez did have a signature victory in his career with his knockout win over Sergey Kovalev to win a light heavyweight title. However, there should have been a lot more highs in his career. Unfortunately, he spent the majority of his peak years as a fighter who was unable to get big opportunities. In the same promotional stable with fellow Montreal fighters Jean Pascal and Adonis Stevenson, he was not the attraction that the other two were, and he also didn't possess their firepower or magnetism in the ring. He was a technical cutie that no one was in a rush to face. He often had to accept step-aside money from well-heeled players in the sport instead of getting a real opportunity to fight the best. (Ill-timed injuries also played a role throughout his career.) 

Alvarez is now 36 and as good as Smith looked last night it's also important to note that Alvarez just can't move like he used to. Eleider was once upon a time a mover in the ring, but watching him on Saturday, his transition to an older, stationary counterpuncher has now been completed. 

As sob stories go in the sport, Alvarez's isn't the worst one. He did get a title shot and made the most of his opportunity by winning that fight. However, his no-show in the Kovalev rematch cost him seven figures. In addition, had he had earlier opportunities, let's say against Stevenson, with whom he matched up well, he could be staring at a much larger bank account at the moment. But Alvarez was still fighting on Top Rank card on Saturday with the chance to get another title shot. A declining Povetkin found a way to perform at 40, a declining Alvarez could not at 36. 

As for Smith, it's exciting to see fighters, even veteran ones, add to their arsenal. Few would have surmised in 2016, or even 2019, that Joe Smith could outbox Eleider Alvarez, but that's precisely what happened. Earlier this year, Tyson Fury demonstrated his unwillingness to accept the label from others that he was best on the outside. He found a sympathetic trainer, perfected his inside fighting craft and bested Deontay Wilder in the trenches. Similarly, Smith refused to believe that all he could be in boxing was a crude banger. It's easy to accept these monikers and limitations, but it's not so simple for 30-year-olds to want to become something different in the ring. 

Smith realized that even the best version of his previous self in the ring, the wild right hands, the pulverizing hooks, was not the way to beat Alvarez. With this belief, he studied his opponent and implemented changes that he knew he needed to make to win. Prior to his fight with Hopkins, a prominent boxing scribe liked Smith's chances in the matchup, writing that Smith was too stupid to be intimidated by Hopkins's psychological tricks. I think that it's now time to throw out this old script for Smith. He's become much more than the boxing industry ever imagined. And he and his very small group of believers alone deserve the credit. Smith and his team have made a career out of being underestimated, but it's more than time for them to receive their just due. Under the guise of ordinary, something quite remarkable has happened: one of the best light heavyweights in the world. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face Podcast, we interviewed former super middleweight champion Caleb Truax, who has an intriguing fight later this month against Alfredo Angulo. Brandon and I also provided our observations on the first cards back from Matchroom and PBC. We also looked ahead to some of the high-profile matchups in the fall. To listen to the show, click on the links below: 


Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio #185

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
Email: saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com.
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.