Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pound-for-Pound Update 3-29-17

Let's start at the top: Earlier this month, Roman Gonzalez lost a controversial majority decision to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Overcoming a first-round knockdown and some nasty cuts, Gonzalez hurt Srisaket at many points in the bout. However, as the fight progressed, the challenger continued to land blistering left crosses and right hooks, helping to slow Gonzalez's ferocious attack. In a memorable 12th round, Gonzalez reversed course and unleashed a blistering assault on Srisaket, who had to survive to make it to the final bell. 

I scored the fight a draw – 113-113. One judge had it the same as I did while two saw Srisaket winning by two points (114-112). HBO's Harold Lederman had Gonzalez edging the fight and many on social media saw the bout more widely in favor of Roman. 

Ultimately, how one views the Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai decision determines the ranking of the top fighters in the sport. If you are of the belief that the judges' scorecards weren't legitimate summations of the ring action, that Gonzalez was robbed, then it would be perfectly reasonable to place Gonzalez at or near the very top of the current pound-for-pound list. However, if one looks at the scorecards as defensible, meaning, that they are conceivable given how the fight played out, then I don't see how Gonzalez can remain at #1 in the pound-for-pound list or how Srisaket could be ignored in the same rankings of the best fighters in boxing. 

I fall in the second camp. Although I had Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai a draw, I could certainly see a round I gave to Roman that could've gone the other way (the second). Again, I'm not saying that I necessarily agreed with the decision, but I understand how the judges could've arrived at their final scores in a legitimate fashion. 

In that I don't believe a robbery took place, I accept the judges' verdict. Thus, I can no longer have Gonzalez as the top fighter on my pound-for-pound list. Srisaket is certainly a very good fighter, but no one had him as an elite talent coming into the Gonzalez fight. Furthermore, in Gonzalez's previous bout against Carlos Cuadras, I thought that Gonzalez only eked out a draw. I didn't penalize Gonzalez after that fight in my Rankings. However, it's time to make an adjustment. It's one thing fighting Sergey Kovalev on even terms; it's another thing going life-and-death with perceived lesser fighters in your own division. 

Perhaps Cuadras and Srisaket had been underrated prior to their fights with Gonzalez. That could certainly be true. But no one had them on Sergey Kovalev's or Manny Pacquiao's level heading into their matchups with Roman. And although both Srisaket and Cuadras are very talented fighters, few would make the case that they among the best two or three fighters in the sport.  

I have Srisaket entering the Rankings at #5 and I've moved Gonzalez down to #6. As a result of this activity, Andre Ward becomes my new pound-for-pound king. And although Ward's fight with Kovalev could've gone either way, I feel much more comfortable with a guy sitting at the top of the Rankings eking out a win against a truly elite fighter vs. one struggling with boxers who haven't consistently proven to be at the top level of the sport.

In other news, Gennady Golovkin headlined the card that featured Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai. He won a close decision over Daniel Jacobs in a performance that was far from dominant. I essentially kept Golovkin in place after his victory. Because of Srisaket's rise, I moved him down one spot to #7. 

At the beginning of the month, Keith Thurman defeated Danny Garcia by split decision. I thought that Thurman was a clear winner in the fight and that Garcia was the recipient of a very generous scorecard. Thurman, still undefeated, has two excellent wins over Shawn Porter and Garcia in the welterweight division. I moved him up in the Rankings from #20 to #10. Had Garcia given a better account of himself, I would have kept him in my top-20. However, his Thurman performance wasn't just an off-night or an outlier. Garcia has also been the recipient of two questionable close decision wins in the last few years. Factoring in these performances, I'm convinced that he's no longer an elite fighter. He exits the pound-for-pound list. 

In a final move in this month's Rankings, Shinsuke Yamanaka returns to the Top-20. Earlier in March, the longtime bantamweight champ knocked out Carlos Carlson to make his 12th title defense. Now, Yamanaka may have been given a gift very favorable decision against Anselmo Moreno in 2015 but he was able to avenge that performance in a rematch last year. Yamanaka re-enters the Rankings at #20. Even though Carlos Cuadras won his fight against David Carmona earlier this month, it wasn't an impressive performance and I believe that Yamanaka's body of work might be a smidge better. Cuadras exits the Rankings. 

The Complete Saturday Night Boxing Pound-for-Pound List is as follows:

1.   Andre Ward
2.   Sergey Kovalev
3.   Manny Pacquiao
4.   Terence Crawford
5.   Srisaket Sor Rungvisai
6.   Roman Gonzalez
7.   Gennady Golovkin
8.   Saul Alvarez
9.   Naoya Inoue
10. Keith Thurman
11. Juan Estrada
12. Tim Bradley
13. Guillermo Rigondeaux
14. Vasyl Lomachenko
15. Adonis Stevenson
16. Donnie Nietes
17. Leo Santa Cruz
18. Carl Frampton
19. Mikey Garcia
20. Shinsuke Yamanaka 

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Opinions and Observations: Golovkin-Jacobs, Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai

Daniel Jacobs executed a terrific game plan against middleweight king Gennady Golovkin. Switching constantly between orthodox and southpaw, Jacobs confounded Golovkin through large stretches of their fight. From both stances, he fired sweeping hooks, sharp crosses and short uppercuts. Jacobs' approach kept Golovkin from applying consistent pressure; he didn't know where the punches would be coming from. In numerous occasions, Golovkin connected with shots at close range and then voluntarily backed off after receiving Jacobs' counters. For boxing spectators, Golovkin in temporary retreat was certainly a new phenomenon. 

What won the fight for Golovkin in my opinion (Golovkin prevailed by 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113 – I scored it for him 115-113, having it six-five for Golovkin with one round even) was his lead right hand. That shot sent Jacobs to the canvas in the fourth round and staggered him at a couple of other points during the fight. The only other punch that seemed to work for Golovkin was his jab, which wasn't the consistent weapon that it had been in previous fights but it was still effective enough to help him win rounds. 

However, the big story of the fight was Jacobs. Having been knocked out in his only previous loss of his career and dropped recently by light-hitting Sergio Mora, Jacobs wasn't expected to make it to the final bell. However, not only did Jacobs survive all 12 rounds, but at many points in the match he was clearly the superior talent. Using his height, reach and athleticism, he mostly stuck to a disciplined game plan of quick flurries, angles and switching stances. He didn't engage in a war and kept Golovkin from timing him or walking him down on a consistent basis. 

Jacobs' trainer, Andre Rozier, devised a clever game plan that accentuated his fighter's size, boxing skills and athleticism to keep Golovkin from fully asserting himself. At times, Rozier voiced his displeasure with Jacobs pulling straight back or losing concentration at the end of rounds but Rozier should certainly be pleased with his fighter's execution. Jacobs' and Rozier's work introduced a boxing god to mortality. Sure, Golovkin may have won the fight but he'll never be looked at with the same trepidation by potential opponents. It's not that future boxing foes will, or even can, duplicate Jacobs' game plan, but there no longer will exist the aura of invincibility around Golovkin, a factor that has helped him dominate the top levels of boxing prior to Saturday. 

But let's not disparage Golovkin's effort against Jacobs. He earned a tough victory when things weren't necessarily working well for him, a demonstration of significant intestinal fortitude. Facing an athletic, rangy, skilled boxer with power, Golovkin landed what he could and was successful at hurting Jacobs with strafing right hands. It wasn't his best performance but not all opponents are compliant in the ring. Golovkin beat a determined, talented fighter. His offense was just a tad more consistent and his blows were the better shots. 

At 34 and with over 350 amateur bouts, it's certainly possible that Golovkin's physical prime is behind him. However, let's not discount that Jacobs' approach might have given Golovkin problems earlier in his career as well. Yes, there were moments on Saturday where Golovkin couldn't pull the trigger like he had in previous fights but that could also be attributed to Jacobs' tricky style as much as Golovkin's potential physical decline. In short, both Golovkin's age and Jacobs' effectiveness should be given significant weight when assessing GGG's performance on Saturday. 

What was most telling about Golovkin was how he reacted to Jacobs' power. Instead of staying in the pocket and banging with multi-punch combinations, Golovkin often got out of range to reset. Although his chin held up wonderfully throughout the fight, it was clear by how he reacted to Jacobs' shots that Golovkin didn't feel safe to stand and trade. Jacobs' body work, specifically his left uppercut out of the southpaw stance, sent Golovkin away on numerous occasions. These moments should give future GGG opponents hope. Golovkin has always seemed unflappable but now doubt has finally started to creep in. I'm not saying that he necessarily loses his next fight but now one can see how he will struggle in the future. If GGG no longer feels comfortable exchanging like he did in the past, he becomes a much different and far more beatable fighter. 

Ultimately, Golovkin-Jacobs may not have been a spectacular bout, but it was an engrossing and memorable one. We learned important things about both fighters. Jacobs removed all doubts about his physical and psychological makeup and Golovkin had just enough savvy and offense to defeat a gifted and determined opponent. The scores could have gone either way and in the final analysis Golovkin-Jacobs was one of the few occasions in boxing where both combatants exited as deserved winners. 

***

Pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez and former junior bantamweight titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai engaged in an epic war on the Golovkin-Jacobs undercard. Sor Rungvisai, a little-known, hard-hitting southpaw from Thailand immediately announced his presence with a hard left hand to the chest that dropped Gonzalez in the opening round. By the end of the second round, Gonzalez had successfully battled back with expert displays of combination punching, throwing almost every punch imaginable and landing with pinpoint precision. 

Rounds three through six were vintage Gonzalez displays. He blasted Sor Rungvisai around the ring with a relentless offensive attack. Although Sor Rungvisai continued to land, Gonzalez's clean punching repeatedly snapped his opponent's head back and forced him into retreat. In particular, Gonzalez had sustained success with a right hand/left uppercut combination, of which Sor Rungvisai couldn't find a proper defense. 

However, as the fight progressed, a series of head butts (from my vantage point, none of them intentional) opened up two cuts over Gonzalez's right eye and as the bout continued, Roman's face was a bloody disaster. Rungvisai's consistent sharp left hands didn't help matters either as Gonzalez's cornerman, Miguel Diaz, couldn't contain the bleeding.

From my perspective, Gonzalez started to fade in the seventh round and struggled in the back half of the fight. Although he continued to march forward, his offensive attack lacked its previous dynamism. With Gonzalez not fighting at his same ferocious clip, Sor Rungvisai became increasingly emboldened. Earlier he had retreated after feeling Gonzalez's power but in the latter rounds, he remained in the pocket, firing hard left hands and withstanding Gonzalez's forays.  

Gonzalez rallied with a huge 12th round, where he unloaded his arsenal attempting to end the fight. Although, Sor Rungvisai made it to the final bell, he was in survival mode at several points in the round. On my card, I had the fight a draw, as one of the judges had it. However, the other two saw Sor Rungvisai winning by two points, acceptable scores in my opinion. 

Nevertheless, the decision was wildly unpopular in the arena and very few on social media had Sor Rungvisai winning. I certainly think that the fight could've played much differently in the stands at Madison Square Garden than how it did on television (where I was watching). Gonzalez was clearly the aggressor throughout the majority of the fight. He continued to press forward and fire shots. However, Rungvisai countered very well off the ropes. Those shots are far easier to see on television with multiple angles than in an arena hundreds of feet away. In the second half of the fight, Sor Rungvisai seemed to be connecting with the stronger blows. 

Ultimately, Glenn Feldman, Julie Lederman and Waleska Roldan turned in defendable scorecards. It should be noted that East Coast judges are far less inclined to score aggression than those in other jurisdictions. To them, clean punching matters more than other scoring criteria such as ring generalship and effective aggression. I'm not saying that Saturday's judges were right or wrong, just that different regions in the U.S. look at scoring fights differently. I'm fairly confident that Gonzalez would've won Saturday's fight had it taken place in Nevada or California, jurisdictions that seem to place more emphasis on the fighter who comes forward. 

Gonzalez may have lost his "0" on Saturday but his effort only helped build his legend. Overcoming an early knockdown and gushing blood throughout the bout's second half, he demonstrated why he has endeared himself to fight fans the world over. He sought no excuses and refused to look for a way out of the fight. He faced a rugged, hard-hitting, proud opponent and refused to yield. 

Although clearly acknowledging Gonzalez's courageous display on Saturday, it should be stated that he hasn't looked comfortable at junior bantamweight (115 lbs.). Against Carlos Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai, he took significant punishment. Gonzalez started his career at 105 lbs., and three divisions north – and a whole lot of ring wars later – he seems to have met his physical limit. At 29, he's also at an age when many smaller fighters tend to decline rapidly

Unfortunately for American boxing fans, most of Gonzalez's best moments in his career transpired in Japan, Nicaragua and Mexico. Until 2015, his fights weren't consistently broadcasted in the U.S. Thus, the overwhelming majority of American fight enthusiasts were deprived of watching Roman's awesome peak. And while HBO deserves belated credit for bringing Gonzalez stateside, a lack of imagination and a bias against smaller fighters kept him away from U.S. airwaves for far too long (again, I do credit HBO for eventually committing to Gonzalez). 

Hopefully, U.S networks will become more imaginative with their boxing programming. There will be other smaller-weight fighters who can captivate American audiences if given the proper exposure. Luis Nery, a 22-year-old Mexican bantamweight knockout artist, may be one such fighter. He's in line to fight Shinsuke Yamanaka, the bantamweight king, later this year. If Nery emerges with the title, and it's certainly a possibility, a U.S. network should jump on him; that could be a wonderfully fruitful relationship. 

If he wants them, Roman Gonzalez still has several attractive fights on the horizon. Alluring rematches against Juan Estrada, Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai would be welcome at HBO and there's always the big-money option against Naoya Inoue in Japan. It's certainly possible that Gonzalez can reclaim a title for a final coda to his memorable career.

Gonzalez will be remembered as a can't-miss fighter. As offensively gifted as any in the sport, he plied his trade with a technical mastery and ferocious zeal unmatched in contemporary boxing. Ultimately, it's unfortunate that so many fight fans were deprived of seeing his best in the ring, but even in the autumn of his career, Gonzalez demonstrated why he was such an extraordinary talent. 

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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Podcast Archive

I've archived all of my recent podcasts. You can find them on the left column of saturdaynightboxing.com under "Recent Podcasts." If you are accessing the page via mobile device, scroll down to the bottom of the page, click "View Web Version" and then you will find the archive on the left column. 

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Punch 2 the Face Podcast

Listen to this week's Punch 2 the Face podcast. We interviewed K2 Promoter Tom Loeffler about Golovkin-Jacobs, Roman Gonzalez and Joshua-Klitschko. Also on the show, we discussed David Lemieux's devastating knockout of Curtis Stevens. Other topics include Demetrius Andrade, Friday's Michael Conlan fight, Kauffman-Mansour and more. Click on the link below to listen. 

Blog Talk Radio link:
iTunes link:
Stitcher link:

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