Friday, April 10, 2015

Previews: Garcia-Peterson, Lee-Quillin

The next installment of the Premier Boxing Champions takes place on Saturday in Brooklyn and features a pair of intriguing matchups: two of the best junior welterweights (fighting above the division limit at 143 lbs.) in Danny Garcia (29-0, 17 KOs) against Lamont Peterson (33-2-1, 17 KOs) and a middleweight title fight between knockout artist Andy Lee (34-2, 24 KOs) and hometown boxer-puncher Peter Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs). Garcia-Peterson has been long-delayed but it's still a fascinating matchup. Their styles should mesh to form a very exciting fight. In the middleweight clash, both Lee and Quillin possess true knockout power. Read below for the keys to each fight. My predictions will be at the end of each section.

Garcia-Peterson:

1. Neither fighter is good in the opening rounds. Who will seize the early momentum?

With some notable exceptions, like his outing against Zab Judah and the second Erik Morales fight, Garcia can be a slow starter. He's most often a counterpuncher who uses the first few rounds of a fight to size his opponents up. He fell behind early against Lucas Matthysse, looked terrible in the first few rounds against Mauricio Herrera, was dominated at the outset by Amir Khan and failed to impress in the opening rounds of the first Morales fight. Garcia gradually unleashes his arsenal throughout a fight. He'll start with a few jabs and right hands, either to the head or body, but his best shot, his counter left hook, often doesn't appear until a few rounds into the match. 

Peterson could capitalize on Garcia's methodical starts by ramping up the activity level in the bout's first third. Using his strong jab and lateral movement, Peterson has the ability to take a decisive lead; however, he has his own problems in the opening rounds. Here's a list:
  • Knocked down in the second round and twice in the third against Matthysse (the last one ended the fight)
  • Sent down in the first round by Amir Khan
  • Dropped twice in the third against Victor Ortiz
  • Hit the canvas in the third round facing Tim Bradley
In his bigger fights, Peterson has demonstrated confidence issues. Early on, he can be very hesitant committing to his punches and it takes him a few rounds to warm up and find his comfort zone in the ring. Against top opposition, he gradually works his way into a fight, providing significant opportunities for his opponents. 

Garcia should test Peterson in the opening rounds, unloading his power shots. This is a change from his standard operating procedure but it's a risk well worth taking. Getting an early 10-8 round from a knockdown could be a huge swing in the bout. 

Both Garcia and Peterson can be bested early in fights. However, they are also slow starters. Which one will change his usual game plan and adapt to his opponent's weakness? Will either of them seize this potential opportunity? 

2. If Lamont is hurt, can Danny finish him?

The flip side to Lamont's vulnerability early in fights is his significant recuperative powers. It seemed like he wouldn't make it out of the opening rounds against Khan and Ortiz but he rallied in both instances to earn a win and a draw. In addition, Peterson's physicality is a significant advantage in the second half of fights, gradually wearing down opponent. 

It's certainly possible that Garcia will land something big in the fight but I'm not sold on his finishing skills. Even though he stopped Khan, he patiently hit him with flush shots instead of pressing for the knockout. Similarly, he had Zab Judah hurt badly early in their match but couldn't put him away. Judah was able to stay in the fight and actually hurt Garcia in the closing rounds. 

On the world level, Garcia has only stopped Khan and an ancient Erik Morales. Although Garcia's counters are accurate and damaging, they don't necessarily KO opponents. In addition, I'm not sure that Garcia has the temperament to really push for the knockout if the opponent isn't ready to go. Against Peterson, Garcia needs to go for the KO if Peterson is hurt. Peterson isn't a natural counterpuncher so Garcia shouldn't have to worry about some spectacular shot coming back his way. In addition, letting Peterson stay in the fight is a bad idea for the later rounds. If Peterson's hurt, Garcia has to try to end it. 

3. Peterson must get inside. 

Garcia's best shots are from mid-range and further. His left hook can be wide. His counter right hand can be devastating in the pocket. Even his right uppercut needs a little bit of distance to hit his target. Garcia is less of a threat on the inside. 

Peterson can be very versatile in the ring. He possesses the boxing skills to fight from distance and the physicality to rough up opponents in close quarters; for this matchup, Peterson must fight in the trenches. By staying in close, Peterson can lessen the impact of Garcia's best weapons. Peterson needs to use his double jab and lateral movement to get inside and once he's there he needs to work. He has the types of short shots (right hand and left hook) that could give Garcia problems. If he's clinching a lot it's a big mistake.  

Prediction:

I see this as a very competitive fight with a number of swings in action. Ultimately, I think that Garcia's clean punching and effective counters will do enough to give him the nod. This very well could be a 7-5 type of fight and I don't expect the three scorecards to be in agreement.

Danny Garcia ekes out a victory over Lamont Peterson. 

***

Lee-Quillin:

Note: this preview was written before Quillin came in heavy to the weigh-in. Quillin's weight can certainly be a very important factor in the outcome of the fight.

1. Can Lee land his best right hook and what happens if he does?

Quillin has never faced a big puncher in his career. Throughout 31 fights, his chin has never been a question mark but Lee's right hook could change that dynamic. In his last two fights, Lee destroyed John Jackson and Matt Korobov and he has the type of power to finish anyone at 160. However, those stoppages were the result of his opponents being out-of-position, in spots where they couldn't fully defend themselves. Quillin is a disciplined fighter and will take fewer risks than those opponents did. For Lee, delivering his best hook against Quillin will be a difficult proposition. He's going to have to throw combinations to land his best shot. I don't think that single counterpunches will be enough.  

Quillin doesn't want a ragged fight. He's certainly aware of Lee's power and he can win without taking unnecessary chances. However, if he does get tagged, all bets are off. We don't know about his recuperative powers or his ability to survive if he gets hurt. 

2. Quillin's counters.

A very accurate counterpuncher, Quillin can do damage with three shots: left hook, straight right hand and right uppercut. He's patient in the ring and he'll let an opponent outwork him during flurries to land his power counters. Lee has certainly been hurt before in the ring, especially to the body, and Quillin's counter shots will play a huge role in getting the best of the action. Lee can get lazy with his jab, giving Quillin the opportunity to land solid counter rights and left hooks. In close quarters, Lee often squares himself up, leaving his body exposed. Quillin will have his pick of power counters in those circumstances. 

Although Lee is considered the bigger puncher in the fight, Quillin's power shouldn't be underrated. He has more than enough steam on his shots to end things if Lee makes mistakes. Ultimately, this is the type of fight where either man could get knocked out. 

3. Can Lee win rounds by boxing?

I expect Quillin to have a very conservative game plan for this fight. Keeping the action in the center of the ring and using his jab to be first, Quillin could pick up points in a hurry. And despite Lee's Olympic pedigree, he's been beaten to the punch by almost every fighter that he's faced on the world level. In addition, Lee's work rate is often inconsistent and can fall precipitously if he's behind. 

Lee can't expect a one-punch knockout to salvage his night on Saturday. He's the one who has to force the action. If the fight stays in the pocket, Quillin's jab and quick shots will score the points. Lee's going to have put punches together and really work to win rounds. Quillin will be more than content to win a decision by boxing; Lee will have to be active enough to give judges a reason to score rounds for him.  

Prediction:

Although this matchup features plenty of firepower, I bet that we'll see a much more technical fight, with Quillin working behind his jab and using his legs to control the pace of the fight. Lee will continually see his head knocked back by sharp punches and his lack of athleticism will be a huge hindrance. Quillin boxes his way to a decisive victory. 

Peter Quillin defeats Andy Lee 118-110. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The SNB Interview -- Tureano Johnson

Just over a year ago, Tureano Johnson was an obscure middleweight from the Bahamas who had only appeared in one eight-round fight. Flash forward to the spring of 2015 and Johnson (18-1, 13 KOs) finds himself right in the mix for a 160-lb. title shot. With a fan-friendly style and a desire to take on all-comers, Johnson has seen his notoriety in the sport increase rapidly. Under consideration for Gennady Golovkin's next title defense, Johnson was passed over in favor of Willie Monroe. However, Johnson remains undeterred in his quest to be a champion and he continues to seek out the biggest fights in the division.
 
Saturday Night Boxing recently talked with Johnson in a wide-ranging interview. Among the topics covered was Johnson's colorful and varied amateur career, including  training in Cuba for five years and representing his country in the 2008 Olympics; recovering from the first loss of his career against Curtis Stevens; how the Bible helped form Johnson's ring identity; why he's upset with Miguel Cotto and whom he would like to fight next.
 
Interview by Adam Abramowitz:
The Interview has been condensed and edited.

I wanted to start out with how you originally got into boxing in the Bahamas. What brought you to picking up the gloves for the first time? 

I was coming home from school one day and I was going to my grandmother’s house. My uncle is Ray Minus Sr. He was also a professional boxer in the Bahamas and a great fighter. He found the world champion Elisha Obed. It was Ray Minus Sr. who introduced me to the boxing game but it was me who was persistent about the sport. He saw that I had a passion for it.  

During your amateur career, at what point did you know that you could compete on the world-level?  

It was really Ray Minus Jr., Ray Minus Sr.’s son [Minus Jr. challenged for a world title three times]. He became my coach later on in my amateur career, before I trained in Cuba. I was at the Silver Gloves in Florida and I had won all of my fights there. From there, we travelled throughout the Americas, such as Guatemala, Venezuela and so on, and we had a lot of success with that. 

You trained in Cuba for five years during your amateur days. How did that opportunity come to you? 

Training and living among the best boxers in the world, it was thrilling. At the 2003 CABA Games [the annual tournament held by the Caribbean Amateur Boxing Association], I was named the best boxer. In fact, I won eight gold medals at the CABA Games and was named best boxer five times. Peter Nygard was there in 2003 [Nygard is the chairman of Nygard International, a fashion house]. He was originally from Finland, raised in Canada but lives in the Bahamas. He is very involved with the Bahamian amateur program. He thought it was worth it for me to train in Cuba with some of the world’s best boxers.  He sent me to Cuba to live and train with them.   

I saw that you fought Diego Chaves a couple of times in the amateurs. What do you remember about those fights? 

Wow! Those were great fights! I fought him once at the Pan American Games and the other one in the Olympic trials. He beat me at the Pan American Games. I wasn’t feeling well in my training session and I was having a lot of personal issues going on at that time. But then I put my head together and I went to the Olympic qualifiers in Guatemala. I qualified beating the Pan American Games gold medalist, Pedro Lima, and the bronze medalist, Diego Chavez, who is a very good fighter. Chaves gave me a good run for my money that fight but I was victorious.  

In 2008 you became the third boxer from the Bahamas to represent your country in the Olympics. Putting boxing aside for a moment, what was the Olympic experience like for you. What was it like living in the Olympic village? 

2008 Beijing Olympics. What a country! What a beautiful moment to be there! Everyone in China was very nice to me and I was grateful for that opportunity. It was the best thing that I’ve ever been to, Beijing, China.  

After the Olympics, what was the process like for you turning pro? Did you have a promoter or a manager in place?  

We had people trying to get me into the professional ring but I didn’t really feel it. And I waited until a year later. I turned pro in 2009 rather than after the Olympics in 2008.  

It was a very difficult task. The guys who were trying to give me an opportunity the first time were no longer open. I’ll tell kids out there right now: if the opportunity comes, you take it. Look at that Bulgarian fighter who fought Floyd Mayweather in the Olympics [Serafim Todorov]. Now he regrets that he did not turn pro. I’m appreciative of everything that I have but I would have taken it sooner had I known how difficult it would be as a professional fighter.  

Your first four professional fights were in the southeast in the U.S. How did you start fighting there? 

Well I was contacted by a few managers out of Atlanta. These guys showed me a dream and they made it happen. They were great for me. They accommodated me in many ways. But now I’ve moved on. The end was bittersweet. Atlanta was good to me but now I’m in Ft. Lauderdale, which is one of the best places for boxing. But I’m appreciative of everything that they did for me. 

After four fights, you had a layoff for 17 months, what was happening to you during that time? 

As I said previously – the bittersweet moment – that was the bittersweet moment. It’s a hard business. I became very hesitant because I didn’t know what was going on. I had a promoter who seemed to be having problems with managers. And it created a big conflict and my managers turned against me at that time. It was a bit of a stress for them and a bit of a stress for me. 

But my current team, they were the guys who have helped me through it. They got me out of the situation I was in. They brought me back into the ring on very short notice. But hey, that’s what you want to do. I’ll fight anybody right now. I get into the ring. I’m prepared. A professional fighter should always be ready but now I have that consistency of training.  

Tell us a little about Team Johnson right now. Who are instrumental in preparing you, training you and guiding your career? 

My manager is Victor Wainstein. Antonio Betancourt is my coach in Florida. Kayla Johnson, who is my older sister, is also a coach for me here in the Bahamas. We’re doing a good job of figuring out who to fight next and how to fight an opponent. Right now, we’re looking at everyone, everyone in the Top-15. My manager Victor Wainstein is phenomenal when it comes to begging promoters for me to fight their fighters. I think he’s doing a great job and I have to take my hat off to him. Victor’s really going out there and getting other promoters to get me fights on their cards.  

The first fight of yours that really caught my attention was your matchup against Willie Fortune in 2013. He was another undefeated prospect and it was a big step up for you with the fight being aired on Showtime. What was the game plan for you there? 

I’m an exciting fighter. I went in there and I beat him up. I’m not there to throw jabs. I mean I have it if I really need it but I didn’t need it. I went in there and I beat the guy up. We knew from the outset of the fight, we were there to take it. We weren’t there to go rounds, we were there to just fight.  

Now that a year has passed since your controversial stoppage loss to Curtis Stevens, and I was there that night in Philadelphia, what are your thoughts on that fight?  

It was not the first time that I had an unjust decision laid upon me. In the Olympics I won the first two preliminary fights. Come the third fight, I fought the hometown guy [Hanati Silamu]. And there was very unfair scoring there.  

I know now that I’m fighting guys in their backyard. I’m fighting in my opponent’s hometown. But now when I’m going to fight an opponent, I’m going to hit him with a devastating punch. I’m going to knock him out, get the TKO or just beat him up badly.  And that’s how I’m going to have to do it, just go in there to beat you up, real convincingly.  

After that loss, did you approach your fight with Mike Gavronski a little differently or did you just do what you normally do. 

That fight I went in there and I did what I usually do.  

About Curtis Stevens, I’m going to have to find a way to get it done. Perhaps find a way to not be so, so aggressive but still be myself in the ring. That fight was a total rip-off…but I’m back and I’ll fight the way I’m good at, with my dominant nature. I’m pressing, using my natural ability and coming forward. 

I notice in the ring that you feel very comfortable fighting either orthodox or as a southpaw. How did you develop that style? 

It was my dad. My dad is a religious guy. He’s a Christian man. One of the chapters in the bible in the Book of Kings says that you should be able to shoot arrows with both hands. And my dad has always been fascinated by that. He made me catch balls with both hands, write with my unnatural hand. He made me do a lot of things with both hands and I became very comfortable with that. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love fighting as a southpaw. I definitely use that from time to time.  

Another thing that I think is very interesting about you is that you’ve had over 300 amateur fights but you fight in a style that would be much different than the "quote-unquote"  typical “amateur” style. How did you learn the finer points of in-fighting, body-punching, working during clinches – all the things that are often less emphasized during the amateurs?  

That’s an interesting question to ask. I go back to Cuba, the Cuban school of boxing. I grew up fighting the Cuban fighters. Most Cuban fighters know how to close distance. They can do that inside flurry without the jab. In Cuba, my coach taught me how to get inside without using the jab. And it was the hardest thing to teach this kid the jab. I want to get around you. I want to hit you. I want to blow something up. I don’t really need the jab. Yes, it works sometimes but my coach realized that about me. He taught me how do damage without throwing the jab. That’s part of the Cuban school of boxing. 

I know that boxers are always trying to improve. What are some things you are presently working on in the gym? 

We want to finish fighters. Sometimes I hit fighters and I don’t realize that they are hurt. I’ve watched videos of fighters leaning on my shoulders after I hit them and I don’t realize that. It’s too late. So we’re working on finishing my opponents, with more power than I’ve had before.  

As far as jabbing, it’s not something I’m focusing on but we still work on it every day. Someday I may need to run around a bit. Who knows? Maybe I’ll fight an opponent where I need to do that. But right now, we’re working on finishing an opponent. 
 
In your last fight, your scored two knockdowns and got a stoppage win over Alex Theran. How do you assess your performance from that fight? 

It was not one of my greatest performances. I say that without a shadow of doubt. And this is a fact. I wasn’t really warmed up going into that ring. We didn’t really know when we were going into the ring. Once I came into the ring, I did my stretches and all that stuff. By the third round, I was just getting warmed up. But then he went down and soon the fight was over. I didn’t even know it. I couldn’t believe it. It was such a shame. He gave up [Theran didn't answer the bell for the sixth round].  

Well, he took a lot of punishment. 

I don’t know. If you’re a fighter, you’re there to win it, regardless of what happens in the ring. If you want it that bad, you got to get it. I think he could have done better.  

I noticed that at your last fight both the Bahamian Minster of Sports and the Minister of Tourism were there. How are you received in the Bahamas when you go back and how did you form those relationships with the people in the top levels of government? 

The Bahamas is a small country, just a little more than 300,000 in population. It’s a small nation, with 700 islands and keys. And the people, they’re coming out to my fights more and more. The people receive me well. They show their appreciation.  

As you remember, we did have a world champion [Elisha Obed] who fought at the highest levels of professional boxing, the highest level of achievement we have ever had in the Bahamas. I hope to get to that level. I must say it [the support] benefits when you’re from a small country and I’ve benefitted a lot.  

From where you were a year ago, before the fight with Stevens, to where you are now, it’s been quite a transformation in your boxing career. How would you describe this last year? 

I really must say that [promoter] Gary Shaw, my manager, Victor Wainstein, and my coaches are doing great jobs. These guys are steering me in a direction that I never thought would happen so quick. They’re putting me in place to be a world champion. Right now, I think I’m a world champion but without the hardware around my waist. My coaches know this. Gary Shaw, he made it happen. Victor Wainstein, he came up with a good plan.  

And it’s such a short period of time. Look how far they’ve taken me in just under 20 fights. They’re talking a world title. And that’s a huge accomplishment in my career thus far.  

You’ve called out Jorge Sebastian Heiland, David Lemieux and a number of guys. Are there particular people you’d like to fight or whatever comes your way? What’s next in your agenda? 

I want to be a world champion and I will focus on fighting world champions. Right now, any title. It’s only fair for me to fight Miguel Cotto but it’s clear to me that he’s not interested in fighting right now. Golovkin would be a great fight too…I don’t understand why Cotto has an international title but he doesn’t want to fight!  

Bring me the days when champions fight champions. Give the fans what they deserve. Mayweather and Pacquiao is the fight the fans want, two world champions. And Cotto, that’s absurd! A world champion fighter should be fighting a world champion-caliber opponent. Right now, I’d like to fight Golovkin or Miguel Cotto but I know that neither one of them will give me the fight. Cotto’s probably going to fight some natural 150-lb, fighter. Let’s see a competitive fight. Give the champion a champion-style fight. And the fans want the same thing.  

I know that a lot of fight fans would feel encouraged by your opinion on this.  

I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again that I’m Tureano Johnson and I bring the fight with me. Fans get tired of being ripped off. Let the champions fight champions. And let me fight a real fight.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook


Monday, March 23, 2015

Pound-for-Pound Update 3-23-15

Sergey Kovalev and Gennady Golovkin continue their ascent up the Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list with stoppage victories over top-ten contenders in their respective divisions. Kovalev notched an eighth-round TKO over the tricky Jean Pascal, a former lineal champ at light heavyweight who had never been stopped or even knocked down in his professional career; Kovalev accomplished both of those tasks earlier this month. Golovkin dominated durable middleweight contender Martin Murray for an 11th-round TKO. Golovkin scored three knockdowns in the bout and referee Luis Pabon could have called the fight off several rounds sooner than he did. 

Finding the appropriate placement for these two fighters is challenging. I moved Kovalev up from ninth to seventh, leapfrogging Carl Froch and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Kovalev has laid waste to his light heavyweight opponents while Froch recently had some very tough fights against George Groves. I also think that Kovalev's body of work is now superior to that of Rigondeaux's, which isn't the same as saying that Kovalev is necessarily the better fighter of the two. Rigondeaux's position in the Rankings was earned from his one big victory over Nonito Donaire. However, he hasn't been able to build off of that win by beating other solid opponents (some of this is not his fault). Meanwhile, Kovalev has beaten multiple top-ten contenders in his division. Picking between the two fighters is a close call but for now I'm siding with Kovalev.

It's also possible that I'm being too conservative with Kovalev. He hasn't struggled with his top competition the way that Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez have in recent fights. However, because of the quality of their recent losses, (Pacquiao and Bradley, respectively), I will continue to keep those two fighters ahead of Kovalev for the time being. 

I moved Golovkin from 15th to 13th, jumping him over Danny Garcia and Miguel Cotto. Over the last 20 months, Garcia won a tough fight against Lucas Matthysse, should have lost to Mauricio Herrera and dominated Rod Salka, who was woefully overmatched. Comparing Golovkin's and Garcia's bodies of work, I like GGG's a tad bit better, although I do acknowledge that Garcia's wins over Amir Khan and Matthysse are better than anything on Golovkin's resume. Ultimately, recent form matters and Garcia's listless performance against Herrera sticks with me. 

As for Cotto, this is another situation like light heavyweight, where the lineal fighter (Adonis Stevenson) is not ranked as highly as another titleholder in the division (Kovalev). Cotto's win over Sergio Martinez catapulted him back into the pound-for-pound rankings but his only other victory in his current run is over Delvin Rodriguez, not exactly a top fighter. Looking at Cotto's previous fights before those two wins, he suffered back-to-back defeats to Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather. I feel comfortable placing Golovkin, who is undefeated and riding a 19-fight KO streak, over him.

Here is the updated Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list:
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Roman Gonzalez
  3. Wladimir Klitschko
  4. Manny Pacquiao
  5. Juan Manuel Marquez
  6. Tim Bradley
  7. Sergey Kovalev
  8. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  9. Carl Froch
  10. Juan Estrada
  11. Naoya Inoue
  12. Adonis Stevenson
  13. Gennady Golovkin
  14. Miguel Cotto
  15. Danny Garcia
  16. Saul Alvarez
  17. Takashi Uchiyama
  18. Shinsuke Yamanaka
  19. Terence Crawford
  20. Donnie Nietes
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Opinions and Observations: Kovalev and Berto

As boxing fans, we crave for the fights to give us that rush of excitement that will carry us through the slog of the work week. To us, boxing provides that high, that fix we need. And this weekend's fights, starting with an impressive three-fight card on Spike TV and carrying over to HBO's main event, delivered thrilling action. So for a little while, we boxing junkies felt a startling sensation, the euphoria of being completely satiated. 

On Saturday, the pulse quickened and the heart started to beat more rapidly during the fifth round of the Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal fight. Through the first four, Kovalev dominated Pascal with enormous right hands, some crafty left hooks and a constant barrage of hard jabs to the body. A right hand sent Pascal through the ropes at the end of the third and Pascal looked completely finished. By some miracle, he survived the shot and continued to fight on. By the fifth, he had recovered well enough and started to impose himself on Kovalev. He connected with a number of sweeping right hands that landed flush. In subsequent bursts, he scored with wide left hooks. Suddenly, the fight was in the balance and the crowd roared with its approval. Now it was Kovalev whose sweat was flying after absorbing big shots. In the sixth, Pascal continued his rally and landed a pulverizing right hand body shot that halted Kovalev's aggression. Kovalev, usually looking unstoppable, was finally revealed to be a mortal. 

Ultimately, Kovalev showed his mettle. After eating some big punches, he went back to basics in the seventh, working behind his jab and being more patient with his power shots. Hurting Pascal at the end of the round, he teed off on him to begin the eighth and the fight was shortly stopped thereafter (it could have been an early stoppage but Pascal was in bad shape). Kovalev had withstood Pascal's rally and changed the tenor of the fight with not just his brawn but also his brains. It was one of his best performances as a professional and a further demonstration that he is far more than just a power puncher. 

We learned quite a bit about Kovalev in the fight. First, his chin is pretty damn good. Pascal landed some huge power shots and although they affected Kovalev, they didn't derail him physically or psychologically. He exhibited fairly good recuperative powers and the back-and-forth didn't materially change his demeanor in the ring. Second, we saw Kovalev make some key adjustments during the fight. In the seventh, he went back to the jab to the body, hammering Pascal with multiple sequences of jabs. This once again opened up his power shots and led to his victory. During the broadcast, Bernard Hopkins (guest commentator for the night) pointed out why Kovalev started to get hit – he was walking in without throwing punches. By reestablishing his jab, Kovalev was able to tighten up his defense and find better angles to throw.

Pascal's success in the fifth and sixth rounds shouldn't be read as an indictment of Kovalev's ultimate ceiling. Pascal is a damn good opponent and very tricky. He lands on everyone, even defensively sound fighters such as Hopkins and Chad Dawson. It's tough to find sparring partners that can mimic Pascal's idiosyncratic movements and punch angles. He has a very unique style, which gives him inherent advantages over a new opponent. What's important to take from Kovalev's performance is that he made the adjustments. He took Pascal's best, recalibrated and then dominated. Kovalev showed on Saturday that he is not an automaton; he is a thinking, breathing fighter – and a fantastic one too. 

Already a top talent in the sport, Kovalev can still develop further. Over the last two years, he has improved his footwork, spacing, jab and Ring IQ. To my eyes, there is an opportunity for him to expand his offensive arsenal. Right now, he is a three-punch fighter with his jab, straight right hand and the occasional left hook. Now, he does a lot of different things with his jab and right hand but still, an opponent only has to look for a few types of shots; there is no uppercut and he doesn't always commit to throw his hook to the body. Imagine what he could do if he closed a combination with a right uppercut or two or a left hook downstairs. Kovalev has already had tremendous success at the top levels of the sport but with a more well-rounded arsenal, he could beat opponents with even more ease than he's been doing – a truly scary thought.

As for Pascal, his comeback spoke highly of his mental fortitude and fighting spirit. Most opponents would've crumbled after that shot in the third, but not Pascal. He wasn't just there to survive or extend Kovalev through evasive tactics; he had designs on winning the fight. After absorbing savage punishment in the early rounds, during the fifth and sixth he was the one getting the better of the action. 

His memorable effort on Saturday guarantees that he will be back in big fights soon. I'm sure that HBO was impressed with his effort. Yes, there aren't many moral victories in boxing and certainly Pascal wasn't happy with how the fight was stopped, but he has cemented his status as a must-see boxer in the division. He's now a more attractive figure to the networks than he was before the fight. In that way, Pascal had a definitive victory. 

***

The second Al Haymon Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) card was held on Friday with far less fanfare than the series debut had. On a secondary cable network (Spike) with fewer stars in the ring and in the announcing crew, the card nevertheless far surpassed the initial PBC outing on NBC. With an announce team of Scott Hanson, Jimmy Smith and Antonio Tarver, the broadcast featured the right mix of enthusiasm, comfort and expertise. Smith, whose usual gig is calling MMA fights, displayed enough familiarity with boxing to make cogent points. His insights about fighter mentality and strategy were consistent benefits to the broadcast. Hanson, who normally covers football for NFL Network, found the right tone throughout the telecast and called the action with excitement and professionalism. Tarver, who was replaced two years ago on Showtime by Paulie Malignaggi, returned to the broadcast booth like he hadn't missed a beat. 

Haymon has designs on expanding the sport well beyond premium cable in the U.S. market. Obviously, exposing a larger pool of viewers to quality fights is the first step to achieving sustainable growth and Haymon has achieved the first part of this objective by putting the sport in front of a lot of new eyeballs. In addition, having announcers who can enhance the viewing experience will be key to enlarging the sport's audience. On Friday, Spike's three broadcasters helped to do their part. They didn't view their boxing assignment as just another gig and they seemed genuinely happy to be there. That enthusiasm manifested throughout the broadcast, augmenting the quality of the fight card. 

As boxing continues to expand on multiple channels, the lack of quality broadcasting talent and broadcast continuity issues have become serious problems. Fox Sports 1 has relied on a patchwork collection of announcers with mixed results. ESPN has rotated its longtime play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore with Todd Grisham (both have their proponents and detractors) and its main analyst (Teddy Atlas) remains a controversial figure. The NBC crew with Marv Albert and Sugar Ray Leonard wasn't well received in its initial broadcast. Showtime went through a series of announcers before settling on Mauro Ranallo as its lead play-by-play voice. Even HBO's crew has slipped from its top days of Lampley, Merchant and Steward.  

Exceptional announcers and announce teams will help create a new generation of fans while mediocre ones can kill the momentum of a boxing series and also fail to accurately capture the sublime moments in the sport. Right now, there isn't enough quality broadcast talent in boxing, making it more difficult to attract and retain new viewers. The best broadcasters help to build relationships with viewers and their calls are essential to how audiences perceive the sport. A poor broadcast creates a wedge between the viewer and positive associations with the sport. 

It's clear from the first two PBC shows that Haymon felt that changes were needed regarding how boxing was being presented on television. Yes, he invested a lot in the music, ring walks and the in-arena experience but he also brought in new announce teams (certainly he had input with the respective networks). He wasn't interested in recycling boxing's usual suspects of broadcasters. 

On first blush, it appears that he and Spike have found a winning broadcast crew. Featuring a mix of MMA and other combat sports, Spike could be a very valuable platform to increase boxing's reach in the U.S and if a first-rate announce crew can appeal to the station's desirable demographics, the sport could make inroads among a subset of viewers who had previously considered boxing their father or grandfather's sport; this would be a considerable advance.

***

As for the PBC fights themselves, the most memorable battle on Friday was the truly epic eight-round heavyweight battle between the overweight Chris Arreola and the journeyman Curtis Harper (not particularly svelte himself). I'm sure that you could surmise from that description that the fight didn't win any awards for aesthetics or skill, but the two combatants certainly left it all in the ring. 

Arreola almost ended the thing in the first round with a right-left combination that sent Harper across the ring. Perhaps a more in-shape Arreola, who weighed in at 263, could have finished the job at that moment, but Harper was able to survive. In the early rounds, the fight seemed like a formality, with an out-of-shape Arreola getting his work in and going through the motions in a stay-busy fight (the match was a swing bout and most likely wouldn't have aired on TV had the Shawn Porter fight gone the distance). Arreola had previously fought for titles and eliminators and here he was against a 12-3 guy not giving a shit. He was doing enough early to hurt Harper and I'm sure that Arreola expected Friday to be a short night's work. 

But by the third, Harper started to have success with some right hands from against the ropes. Mixing in a few left hooks and uppercuts, he was landing squarely on Arreola and the tide of the fight started to turn. The fourth featured more impressive work for Harper and the lumbering "no-hoper" somehow was getting the best of a two-time title challenger. 

Arreola was laboring. Harper hit him with some huge shots and his face quickly got marked up. Arreola looked like he had hurt his right arm and wasn't throwing it fluidly in the middle rounds.

But whatever criticism that Arreola deserves for his conditioning and habits outside of the ring, between the ropes, he has always acted like a real fighter. Refusing to let his arm injury deter him, he continued to throw it, even though he would wince in pain on more than a few occasions after connecting. He also went back to work by the fifth round and hurt Harper several times in the closing frames. He wound go on to win a unanimous decision. On one hand, Arreola looked like shit – he was struggling against a mediocre fighter and looked to be a far removed from his former perch as a top-ranked heavyweight. However, he also responded in the ring as 100% fighter. He overcame adversity and dug down to get a win. 

Yes, the fight resembled a bar room brawl but it was an absolutely thrilling one. The crowd was on its feet throughout much of the fight, an important fact that shouldn't be diminished. 

Arreola's days as a genuine threat to the heavyweight division may now be long gone but he has tremendous value as a television fighter. Match him correctly and fans and viewers will get their money's worth. Not every fighter can be elite but not every fighter can entertain either. Arreola could have a nice second career as the A-side on TV undercards. If he can somehow keep himself in at least decent shape, he could have a nice four- or five-year run ahead of him.

*** 

Welterweight Shawn Porter scored a fifth-round KO over late replacement Erick Bone, who took the fight on one day's notice. Despite Bone fighting mostly at 140-lbs. throughout his career and being unprepared for Porter, he was a surprisingly game opponent. The tall, lanky fighter slipped in some nice counter right hands and showed impressive fluidity and ring generalship. Ultimately, he couldn't overcome Porter's power and aggression.

Porter attacked Bone unrelentingly throughout the bout. Bouncing around his opponent to find angles for attack, Porter practically dispensed with defense throughout the duration of the fight. He didn't respect Bone's power and was more than willing to trade whenever possible. Going to the body unmercifully, Porter landed a thudding right hand to the body in the fifth that ultimately spelled the beginning of the end for Bone. A few moments later, he landed a devastating two-punch combination that sent Bone to the canvas for a second time in the round; Bone couldn't beat the count. 

In evaluating Porter's performance, there were a number of positive takeaways. Many fighters have struggled with late replacements, especially when the substitute presents a style that is markedly different from that of the original opponent. Porter was supposed to face Roberto Garcia, a straight-line banger with a fairly basic style, whereas Bone was a tall, counterpunching cutie who could really use his legs to navigate around the ring. However, Porter seemed unaffected by the opponent switch, which speaks very highly of his psychological makeup. In addition, Porter fought like he had a bug up his ass, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. He clearly wanted to make a massive statement with the fight, showing that he still belongs at the top level of the welterweight division. His exciting knockout guarantees that he will remain a player at 147 and one who is friendly to TV networks. 

On the negative side, Porter's defense has deteriorated since he has switched to his most recent style in the ring. Throughout his last four fights, he has evinced a pressure-fighting approach to his opponents that is far removed from the boxer-puncher style that he displayed in his ascension up the prospect ranks. Now, he fights like a less-controlled version of early Tim Bradley. Like Bradley did, he makes opponents feel uncomfortable with frequent periods of grappling and wrestling mixed in with his boxing. But unlike vintage Bradley, Porter's hands are often out-of-position and he remains fairly easy to pick off with accurate counters – that’s how Kell Brook took his title.

With his small arms, lack of height, muscular frame and fast feet, a pressure style makes a lot of sense for Porter. However, forsaking basic defensive principles will continue to leave him exposed against top fighters. I submit that if he toned down his aggression maybe 10% or so and remained a little more disciplined about coming in behind shots (instead of marching in without throwing), he could reap substantial rewards. 

Nevertheless, Porter has become a very entertaining fighter in the ring, something rarely said about him during his development. To beat him, an opponent must be very accurate and keep ultimate concentration for 12 rounds. In short, he remains a handful for anyone out there, win or lose.

***

The main event of the Spike broadcast featured a rousing comeback by Andre Berto. After losing the first four rounds of the fight, he wound up knocking out Josesito Lopez in the sixth. Early in the bout, Lopez outhustled Berto, beating him to the punch and letting his hands go more frequently. In the opening rounds, Berto's timing and accuracy were way off. He was more than a step slow with his counters and he landed far more frequently on Lopez's gloves than he did on the fighter himself. It seemed that Berto wasn't really committing to his shots early. He threw his counters, like he was supposed to, but they weren't punches designed to do damage; they were formalities.

Slowly Berto worked his way into the fight and he seemed to get more comfortable as the rounds progressed. (It should be noted that this was only Berto's second fight in 18 months. He was recovering from shoulder surgery through a lot of his time off.) During an exchange in the sixth, Berto found Lopez out-of-position and crushed him with a short right hand. Lopez beat the count but Berto immediately sent him down with the next punch he threw, a lead right from distance.

At this point, Raul Caiz Jr. waved off the fight without even administering a count; it was a controversial stoppage. On one hand, Lopez was certainly lucid after the second knockdown and he had demonstrated significant recuperative powers throughout his career. However, Lopez had also been involved in a number of wars and his punch resistance didn't look very good on Friday. As he attempted to get up, he did appear very shaky. Ultimately, I think that Caiz's decision could be validly debated either way. (In the opening fight of the card, Jack Reiss gave Bone an opportunity to rise from a second knockdown from a shot that was far worse than the one that Berto landed on Lopez.) If it were up to me, I would've given Lopez the ten seconds to see if he could clear his head but as bad stoppages go, that one didn't even register – just settle in for one of those lengthy British cards; you'll see one or two truly awful ones, guaranteed. 

***

The Kremlinology of Al Haymon and his associates is a fun parlor game, one in which I have certainly participated. Is Haymon good for the sport? Will his new ventures on network TV benefit boxing? In five years, will he dominate the sport or will he be an outcast? Among many boxing fans, he has been the subject of florid antipathy, vitriol and epithets that wouldn't be used in front of mom. But one thing's for certain, his fighters sure do like him. 

A defining characteristic of Haymon's tenure in boxing is the two-way loyalty between him and his fighters. Not only has he gotten many of them paid well but he has stood with his boxers through thick and thin. His fighters feel properly supported and they repay him with their continued consent of his representation. Friday's Spike card was a prime example why Haymon engenders such loyalty

When Shawn Porter was left without a dance partner for his fight on 24-hours’ notice, many promoters would have scrapped the fight or kicked it off the televised portion of the card with a much lesser opponent. (I know that Haymon is technically an advisor or manager but we know that he is the de facto promoter for the PBC series, title or not.) But Haymon didn't just fly in one capable fighter as a replacement; he brought in a second just in case. If Erick Bone didn't make weight, Karim Mayfield was there to step in.

Not only did Haymon wind up making a good bout with one day to work with but he helped multiple fighters. He saved a fight and a training camp for Porter. In addition, Haymon kept him on TV in a featured slot. Furthermore, Haymon was able to use this opportunity to showcase Bone's skills (another one of his fighters) and now Bone should get attractive opportunities at 140 lbs. Mayfield didn't get to fight but I'm sure that he got paid to take a plane down to Southern California and appreciated the consideration.

The main event featured another instance of why Haymon's fighters are devoutly loyal to him. Many promoters/managers would have left Andre Berto for dead by now. Coming into the fight, he had lost three of his last five, one of which by a crushing knockout to Jesus Soto Karass. In addition, it wasn't as if Berto had the boxing public behind him or much support at the TV networks. Nevertheless, Haymon put Berto on as his headliner for the first PBC card on Spike, clearly a signifier of how important Berto is to him. Nevermind that Porter remains a more relevant fighter in the welterweight division, Berto had been a long-standing fighter of Haymon's and he was rewarded for that. Berto will now get a bigger opportunity because of Haymon's continued belief in him. You can bet that he won't be switching managers anytime soon. 

Friday night was an excellent one for Haymon. It's easy to be suspicious or critical of his undertakings in the sport and as one who wields so much power, he warrants a high level of scrutiny. However, let's give the man his due. He has made significant inroads in the sport for a reason and Friday perfectly encapsulated why this has occurred.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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