Thursday, April 18, 2024

Haney-Garcia: Preview and Prediction

Devin Haney (31-0, 15 KOs) and Ryan Garcia (24-1, 20 KOs) enter Saturday's fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn as familiar opponents. They fought six times as amateurs with each winning three times. But as they fight for Haney's junior welterweight belt on Saturday, those old amateur bouts will no longer matter in the squared circle. A new history will be written. 

As far as matchups go, this is one where both will think that they have advantages and opportunities to exploit. Garcia will like that Haney isn't a pure pressure fighter or a one-punch-knockout artist. He certainly will have periods of the fight where he will have space to operate. Garcia has better power and might have the advantage in hand speed. And he also doesn't have to worry about being perfect in the same way that he did against Gervonta Davis, who had the fight-ending power to punish mistakes – that was Garcia's only loss of his professional career; he didn't make it to the eighth round. 

Haney during his open workout
Photo courtesy of Chris Esqueda/Golden Boy Promotions

Haney will try to capitalize on Garcia's being left-hand dominant and his often-clumsy footwork. Haney has a decided advantage in foot speed and he certainly understands how to take away weapons. If he plants himself on Garcia's right side, he would favor his varied offensive arsenal against Garcia's right hand. Haney also has an advantage in experience in the professional ranks. He's been twelve rounds against current and former champs and won those battles. He has persevered.

But let's not make this fight so reductive; there are other vital considerations in play that can mean much more than who can establish his jab. It's no secret that there's a lot of bad blood between the two and that could manifest in the ring in different ways. Despite being a terrific boxer on the outside, Haney is often far more daring in the ring than his reputation suggests. He took the fight right to opponents such as Jorge Linares, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Regis Prograis. Instead of playing it safe, he often operated at mid-range and closer. And although he's not a standard pressure fighter per se, his volume and effectiveness at mid-range give opponents a lot of trouble. 

But that does create opportunities. Linares was eventually able to crack Haney with a big left hook late in their fight and Lomachenko turned the tide in the second half by pushing Haney back to the ropes; in that fight Haney's energy did flag during some of the later rounds. And with Ryan Garcia's left hook, he doesn't have to land too many of his best ones to change the direction of the fight in his favor. 

Emotion can play the other way as well. After his knockout loss to Davis, Garcia admitted that he stopped listening to his corner and went for the knockout, even if he did so recklessly. Those decisions ultimately got him stopped in the fight; he provided Davis with too many openings. 

Garcia getting gloved up
Photo courtesy of Chris Esqueda/Golden Boy Promotions

Ultimately, this fight may come down to psychology as much as tactics or technical proficiency. Garcia can lose focus in the ring. He can junk a game plan when he's not satisfied. He often will give off bad body language when things aren't going his way, which can buoy an opponent even further. But Haney is a risk taker, and he doesn't necessarily have the big punch to bail him out of trouble. He often fights as if he has a point to prove, which can be to his detriment.  

I think that there are two distinct periods of the fight that will ultimately reveal the winner. The first three rounds will probably be the most intriguing. Haney will want to make an immediate statement and let's face it; Garcia doesn't really want to be boxing for 12 rounds. He's going to fire off some bombs and test Haney's chin. 

It's vital for Haney to make it out of the first quarter of the fight unscathed. If he does get dropped or hurt badly early in the match, Garcia will gain even more confidence. And if Garcia can damage Haney early in the fight, he must try to end it. There's an old saying in the sport that a wounded animal is often the most dangerous one, but that's also one of those aphorisms in boxing that doesn't always stand up to the bright lights of scrutiny, such as skills pay the bills or styles make fights. Sometimes they can be true; sometimes they aren't. Haney doesn't have the one-punch power to turn everything around if he's hurt. If there's a diminished Haney, Garcia has to go for it. 

If the fight makes it to the second half, that's when Haney needs to turn the screws to Garcia. By that point, Garcia would have tried his Plan A, which was to end the fight with a left hook. He hasn't often displayed a viable Plan B in many fights. Haney will have to continue to pepper Garcia with volume and psychological pressure, because there's a legitimate chance that Garcia could wilt. This is not the fight for Haney to chill on the ropes for a spell, play with his food, or take a round off. He needs to remove Garcia's will to fight, his self-belief; Haney wants doubt to creep into Garcia. And that won't happen by itself. 

For my pick, I'm going to side with Haney's experience and temperament in the ring. I've seen him prevail against tough opponents and in trying circumstances. I believe that Haney will have enough defensive responsibility to survive the perilous opening rounds with his faculties intact. Although he has had to navigate through a scare or two in the ring, he has survived those moments, and he has that experience in his back pocket. Eventually he will start to bank rounds, especially as he feels more comfortable incorporating additional facets of his offensive arsenal. I like Haney to pull away in the second half of the fight. And I've yet to see Garcia pull a rabbit out of his hat in a fight where he's losing. Although Haney isn't a one-punch knockout guy, I think that he's a very solid body puncher, which could be vital in weakening Garcia, who most likely will burn off a lot of energy early in the fight going for the knockout and trying to calm his nerves.  

I'm picking Haney by 10th round TKO. I think that a body shot knockdown will cause significant damage and remove Garcia's will to win. Haney's intelligence, multiplicity of tools, consistency and positive big-fight experience will ultimately be the determining factors that lead to his glory. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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 

Monday, April 8, 2024

Roney Hines: Movement and Time

Undefeated heavyweight prospect Roney Hines (13-0-1, 8 KOs) isn't impressed by the current top heavyweights. For Hines, a 6'6" southpaw from Cleveland who can really move, he doesn't see many with his attributes in the division. Eventually, he acknowledges Oleksandr Usyk's skills, his ability to move and not take big punches, but Hines is much more interested in studying smaller fighters. 

"I like to implement Lomachenko's style, how to move, hit and not get hit, that matrix thing," Hines said. "I like watching Gervonta Davis. Back in the day I loved watching Floyd [Mayweather]. Now there's Usyk at heavyweight who can move, but I don't enjoy watching bigger fighters at all." 

Photo Courtesy of DiBella Entertainment

Hines controls the ring, taking advantage of his foot speed and athleticism, knowing that other heavyweights don't possess the gas tank or desire to engage in that type of fight. Even before boxing he was immersed in karate, which he credits with his versatility in the ring, especially the ability to switch stances with ease. He can punch, but his power is more a result of accuracy, hand speed and the element of surprise over sheer one-punch force.

At 28, Hines is still relatively young for the heavyweight division, but even so, his career has moved in fits-and-starts. He's had a gap in his career of almost 16 months and another of almost a year. 

Hines is now aligned with promoter Lou DiBella and next appears in the ring on April 18th in Philadelphia against 11-year veteran Robert Hall (14-2, 11 KOs). Hines believes that he now has momentum on his side and if he wins this month, his goals are to stay active and keep moving up the ladder, hoping to face a top-15 or top-20-rated fighter by the end of the year. 

Although Hines was a decorated amateur, winning the 2018 Golden Gloves by beating Sonny Conto in the finals, he didn't find instant stardom as a professional. Due to financial considerations, he wanted to get moving with his pro career. He admits that he didn't take the best deal out there when he turned pro, but he needed to get started. 

Hines served two years in prison for robbery and assault when he was still an amateur. In prison he had a lot of time to reflect on what he wanted his life to be upon being released. And his attention turned toward boxing. 

"When you are locked up," he said, "you have a lot of time to think. I was sitting in my cell and I said what am I going to do with my life when I get out. Am I going to get a job? What am I best at? It came to my reality that boxing was the path for me...Why not get your life together, work out and get paid? Boxing gave me that drive to move forward."

So from being off the scene for a couple of years to quickly winning the Golden Gloves, Hines took his shot. His talent attracted noted trainer Buddy McGirt and he now works with L.A.-based trainer Eric Brown, who once was one of the house coaches at the Wildcard Gym. Hines admits that while he himself might not be the easiest guy to work with, his relationship with Brown is as smooth as "butter on bread." Another key member of Hines' team is coach Marlon "Butch" Davis, who has been with him since his amateur days in Cleveland. 

Although Hines has progressed in the ring, he is still fighting eight-rounders. Two fights ago, he had a majority draw against rugged club fighter Helaman Olguin. Hines laughs off his performance in the fight, with the most valuable lesson learned for him is don't fight when you're sick. 

Despite having a resume that lacks notable names, Hines is not short on confidence. He believes that he already is one of the best heavyweights out there, but he just hasn't had the opportunity to show it yet. He knows that his style will be a handful for others to face. But he does understand that at this point the best course of action is one step at a time. He's tried it other ways and he believes in DiBella's plan for him. 

April 18th will be a crucial step for him. A past slip up can be dismissed as an off night, but if he wants to have a real path to the top, he has to perform. If he continues to win, the opportunities will come. He has the trainer he likes; he believes in his promoter. There is a plan. And now it's all about him. Can he manifest his potential into reality? 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Opinions and Observations: Wardley-Clarke

It's unusual to see two prospects announce themselves as legit contenders in the same fight. However, Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke went to war, and during their fierce battle they exhibited a multitude of skills and winning intangibles, demonstrating that they are now factors in the upper reaches of the heavyweight division. The fight was declared a draw, but that won't be enough to thwart their momentum in the sport: both have the goods. 

Officially, the fight was ruled a split draw, with the judges unable to agree on a winner (one picked Clarke, one picked Wardley, one had it even). To my eyes, the verdict was just. The fight featured massive shifts in momentum and several close rounds; it was tough to split them. Wardley did score a knockdown in the fifth and Clarke had a point deducted for low blows in the seventh (a bit harsh in my opinion), but despite that gap, Clarke won his fair share of rounds with cleaner boxing and some wicked power shots.

Clarke (left) and Wardley going to war
Photo courtesy of Boxxer

And whether they decide to rematch each other or go separate directions, both provided boxing fans with a thrilling night of action and also laid down a marker to the rest of the division: they are going to be tough fighters to beat. Perhaps what was even more impressive was that both showed additional dimensions in the ring from their previous fights, suggesting potential for even further improvement. 

Clarke is already 32. He turned professional late, remaining an amateur through the 2020 Olympics (which were actually held in 2021). In his early professional fights, he had failed to galvanize the boxing public. While always demonstrating a big punch, his performances were often labored, featuring anemic punch volume and a suspect engine. You could often hear whistles in the crowd during the myriad slow moments in his fights, yet that didn't seem to bother him.  

Wardley had no amateur boxing background to speak of. He was kind of a novelty guy when he turned pro, a white-collar boxer who had real power. Although Wardley had pop and athleticism, he had to overcome his lack of boxing fundamentals. He would often swing from his shoes, throw the wrong punches at the wrong time, and had very little idea about responsible defense. His punching power always elicited respect, but many were waiting for him to be found out by better talents. How can a guy who does so many things "wrong" expect to be a legit contender in the sport?  

Yet Clarke and Wardley put to bed many of those blemishes on Sunday. Clarke was dropped in the fifth round and ate tremendous numbers of big shots, yet he was the fresher fighter in the final round, giving it all for a potential knockout. In the concluding moments, he actually had the better engine.

And Wardley, at age 29, demonstrated a number of flourishes that shows he's been a quick study in the gym. His best punch of the fight was a counter right hand over Clarke's jab, not a novice's punch! He also went to Clarke's body with left hooks like a seasoned pro. And when he did get tagged in the fight, he didn't crumble. He tied up or used the ring to buy time. He has learned what a real fighter does under duress. 

The action in the fight was sensational. The tenth was a Round of the Year contender with both fighters hurt during the frame but determined to keep firing. The second, seventh (which was marred by the unnecessary point deduction) and eighth rounds also featured thrilling action. Frazer held his own with jabs, right uppercuts and sneaky right hands around the guard. Wardley did a little of everything: sharp counters, multi-punch combinations, double jabs, and power shots to the body. 

The championship rounds were also a special attribute of the fight. Although Wardley had never been past seven and Clarke had only been ten rounds once in a noncompetitive win, neither had experienced rounds 11 or 12 before, yet they both showed their fighting spirit as the bout drew to a close. Wardley had little left to give in the final rounds, but there he was winging his best arm punches in the 11th round, trying everything he could to find a final blow to end the fight. And even though Clarke seemed happy to remain upright by the end of the 11th, he was the spritely one in the final round, marching forward, trying to land a closing bomb to stop the fight from going to the judges. It was as if he was fighting more than Wardley; he wanted to silence each and every one of his critics about his lack of endurance or desire.

Wardley-Clarke was one of the finest non-title heavyweight fights since 1997's battle between David Tua and Ike Ibeabuchi (and here I mean world title). Neither Tua nor Ibeabuchi won a world title, yet for those who have seen the fight, they speak about it with reverence, even decades later. Wardley-Clarke featured the same spirit. Two big heavyweights throwing bombs, taking them, recovering, refusing to yield, fighting for their careers, and thrilling all who were watching.  

Wardley and Clarke possess the offensive firepower and internal fortitude to challenge top heavyweight contenders. Are they perfect fighters? Of course not. But they carry a big punch, won't shrink from a challenge and have subtle dimensions that make them more difficult to beat than would appear at first glance. They are real fighters. 

Credit to Ben Shalom and the Boxxer team for putting the bout together and credit both fighters for accepting the challenge. They put on an unforgettable night of boxing and there are plenty of titleholders and illustrious names in the sport who couldn't say the same.   

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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, March 28, 2024

The Sporting Take Interview

I spoke with Darren Aylett of The Sporting Take this week and we covered a range of topics in boxing. We discussed the Ring Magazine Ratings Panel, Terence Crawford, Fury-Usyk, Dalton Smith and more. To watch the interview, click here. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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 

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Rodney Berman: Promoter, Humanist

There's an adage in the business side of boxing: Never fall in love with a fighter. This mantra of emotional distance I'm sure made its way into the boxing vernacular because of the many things that can go wrong with the fighter/representation dynamic. Fighters will leave. They will get into trouble. They will underperform. Often fighters won't appreciate those who helped guide them once they make it towards the top. 

And yet here's Rodney Berman, the legendary South African promoter who has been in the game since 1977, and he's not one for creating barriers between his company, Golden Gloves, and the fighters he represents. Working in the Golden Gloves offices every day is former junior lightweight champion Brian Mitchell. Berman regards Mitchell as a son. They have been in business together for 40 years and it's a relationship that Berman cherishes. 

Rodney Berman
Courtesy of Golden Gloves

Or how about this: Berman no longer allows anyone to sign with Golden Gloves that doesn't enroll in their pension program. And yes, you read that correctly. They have a pension program that is invested in one of the leading South African financial services firms. 

"We really care about our fighters," said Berman. "Every time one of our guys fight, we take 10% of his purse and it goes into Old Mutual, a leading investment finance company in South Africa. We have a life insurance policy for our fighters without any expense. We have a funeral policy without any expense. 

"And regarding the retirement policy, we take out a five-year tax-free investment. There is one caveat to it. In the first five years of the plan, if a fighter wants to withdraw his money, he needs my permission...And I've shown them when you don't touch the policy for five years, the growth in that policy is unbelievable with compound interest. Many keep their money in for much longer. It's very gratifying to me that the fighters have taken to it. And a lot of these fighters have done very well from it."   

Berman takes great pride in how he looks after his fighters. He's not interested in his boxers becoming "opponents." He believes in matching them appropriately, knowing when to roll the dice and when to understand that a given opportunity isn't worth the cost/benefit analysis. 

And this takes us to Kevin Lerena (30-2, 14 KOs), Berman's heavyweight, who takes on undefeated Justis Huni (8-0, 4 KOs) on Friday's Joshua-Ngannou card. Lerena might best be known as the heavyweight who lost a controversial fight to Daniel Dubois. In a surprising development, Lerena knocked down Dubois three times in the first round. Dubois, who was seriously hurt and took a knee for two of the knockdowns, was allowed to continue and then wound up knocking Lerena out at the end of the third round from a punch that connected well after the bell rang. Berman appealed on his behalf, but a no-contest or even a rematch wasn't granted. 

Lerena rebounded since that defeat with two victories, including a win over former cruiserweight champion Ryad Merhy. Berman admits that he's rolling the dice with Lerena against Huni, who is one of the top young fighters from Australia and has a deep amateur background. But he likes the fact that Lerena has the greater professional experience in the matchup and that Huni isn't a huge puncher. 

And it's here that Berman's humanism shines through again. Berman wants Lerena to have a fulfilling life after boxing and believes in matching him compassionately. Berman's plan for Lerena involves his fighter, win or lose against Huni, aiming for the bridgerweight world title instead of going after the big boys at heavyweight. 

"In his everyday life, Lerena is a paramedic," said Berman. "He drives around saving people’s lives. He's a breath of fresh air...Kevin is one of the strongest-minded people that I've met. He's very philosophical. He takes things in stride...

"However, he's in the unfortunate position, that he has the heart of the lion, but it's inescapable with the giants in the ring today that size is against him. And even with Huni, size and weight are against Kevin. But it doesn't deter him.

"Kevin can be a fireball. He has very fast hand speed. It's going to be a very intriguing fight. I think it's going to be a distance fight, because I don't think either man will be able to stop the other. And I think Kevin's ability is being very underrated."

Berman has heard the criticism regarding bridgerweight, but he believes that for the right fighter it serves a purpose. And Berman admits that he's not too keen to match Lerena with any of the other huge hitters at heavyweight. Although Lerena has decent enough power, Berman is concerned about his relatively small body frame. Lerena had fought at cruiserweight until 2020. Lerena is already 31 and Berman wants him to have a fruitful life after boxing. 

Berman with Marvin Hagler (left) and Roberto Duran (right)
Photo courtesy of Golden Gloves

Berman has had dozens of world champions in his 45 years in the sport. One of his greatest accomplishments has been his role in helping to integrate South African boxing. When he started promoting during the height of Apartheid, it was illegal for a white promoter to represent a Black boxer. In the stands there were roped off sections for Black patrons. There were still South African Black champions and South African white champions.

"They were terrible times," said Berman. "It was shocking. When I think back to the Apartheid days, it was surreal...Welcome Ncita, for example, was training in a one-room schoolroom. The conditions were pathetic." 

Berman was one of the first promoters in South Africa to have an integrated promotional company and he worked with the IBF in particular to help promote Black South African fighters. His first world champion was Ncita, a Black fighter who won the 122-lb. title in 1990 and made six title defenses. Another early Black champion was Vuyani Bungu, who defeated Kennedy McKinney twice and made 13 junior featherweight title defenses. 

Boxing has taken Berman, 81, around the world and back. He relishes the South African underdog role in the world boxing scene and his fighters have sprung major upsets, including Sugar Boy Malinga over Nigel Benn and Corrie Sanders over Wladimir Klitschko. He was the lead promoter in Hasim Rahman's upset victory over Lennox Lewis in South Africa, where Berman had a memorable hour-length phone call with Nelson Mandela in the lead up to the fight.

Although Berman has lived a full boxing life, he still is heavily involved in the next generation of South African boxing talent. In particular, he's very high on junior middleweights Shervantaigh Koopman (13-0, 9 KOs) and Roarke Knapp (17-1-1, 12 KOs). And he's still trying to develop world-level fighters despite the weakness of the South African currency (which makes it tough to pay for opponents) and the distance of South Africa from the world's boxing hot spots. Throughout his time in the sport, Berman has had to navigate myriad constrictions and he takes pride in what he's been able to accomplish despite exceedingly challenging social, political, and economic headwinds.  

This week Berman will be in Saudi Arabia looking after Lerena's best interests. Berman is no stranger to going on the road. He'll be hoping that his fighter can pull off the upset, but most of all, he will want his fighter to make sure that he can fight for another day. 

The sorrow in Berman's voice is still there when he talks about Corey Sanders' untimely death from the hands of armed robbers. To Berman, Sanders was one of the sweetest people he has ever met in the sport. Berman understands how life can be precious, how a boxer's life in or out of the ring can change in the blink of an eye. He wants his fighters to accomplish great things in the ring, but also to have a fulfilling tomorrow.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, 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