Thursday, March 31, 2011

SNB Nuggets (Hopkins-Pascal, Donaire, Katsidis-Guerrero)

In a perfect world, the fight between Michael Katsidis and Robert Guerrero would headline an HBO Boxing After Dark show, making it free for the network's subscribers.  The fight is really that good.  Instead, the match is relegated to the undercard of a less-than-stellar pay-per-view featuring Marcos Maidana and the ghost of Erik Morales. 

The matchup is perfect.  Guerrero, the boxer-puncher, faces the ultimate brawler.  Guerrero can look good against this type of opponent.  The key questions are whether Guerrero has the mental toughness to survive 12 grueling rounds and whether he has enough power and precision to keep Katsidis at bay.  

This is a difficult fight to handicap.  If forced, I would pick Katsidis by a close decision in an all-out war.  I expect one if not both fighters to hit the deck.   This fight could be career-defining for both participants.  
Top Rank prevailed in the preliminary legal round against Golden Boy in retaining the services of Nonito Donaire.  There are reports that Donaire intends to file a lawsuit against Top Rank for breach of contract, but that lawsuit has yet to materialize.  

This feud might materialize into a drawn out legal battle between two super lawyers.  Top Rank employs ace lawyer Daniel Petrocelli (he won the wrongful death civil lawsuit against O.J. Simpson) while Golden Boy retains entertainment and boxing legal guru Judd Burstein (he probably is the most succesful, active boxing lawyer in the United States).

Donaire may have legitimate gripes about how he was handled under the Top Rank banner.  However, are these grievances worth a prolonged absence in the ring? He is now in his earning prime in boxing.  Sitting on the sidelines may not be the best strategy in maximizing income. 

As I mentioned in this previous post, this legal battle harms Donaire's momentum in becoming an attraction in boxing.  While he was still aligned with Top Rank, Donaire was already scheduled to return in June.  As of now, there is no timetable for his next fight.  

Donaire is one of the top-five fighters in the sport; he has already attained this lofty stature.  But Donaire wants the money and glory associated with big fights.  Going against Daniel Petrocelli does not achieve these ends or hasten their eventualities.  
I was amused by the fracas in Montreal this week, with Jean Pascal shoving Bernard Hopkins and accusing him of doping.  Normally, Hopkins would be the one initiating confrontations and trying to play mind games with his opponents.  

A strong piece of advice for Pascal: Bernard Hopkins is not the guy with whom you wage psychological warfare.  Hopkins thrives off of slights -- either real or perceived -- as motivational tools.  These accusations of drug use on top of the questionable decision from the first fight will ensure that Hopkins has all the motivation he needs to be in supreme condition for Pascal. 

Hopkins has seemingly rejuvenated his career so often that perhaps a new word is needed.  "Rejuvenated" doesn't even do him justice.  Hopkins was left for dead as an elite fighter after his second loss to Jermain Taylor in 2005!  Now, at the age of 46, he factors into one of boxing's most anticipated fights of the year.  May 21 can't come fast enough. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Will Chris John ever Commit to America?

On February 28th, 2009, Chris John made his American debut against Rocky Juarez.  To American audiences, John was the mysterious Indonesian featherweight who convincingly beat master boxer-punch Juan Manuel Marquez.  In the first fight against Juarez, John easily won eight or nine rounds despite some tough moments at the end of the fight.  It was Texas, and Juarez was the local fighter, so John only got the draw.  In the second match, in September of 2009, he performed even better, winner perhaps 10 rounds.  Somehow, one of the judges only had him winning by a single point.

John's an impressive boxer.  He throws every punch in the book. While he may only have moderate power, his technique is so good that his punches still have the ability to deter his opponents.  He uses the ring very well and is often comfortable fighting on the inside.  He has a good jab and throws multi-punch combinations featuring lots of left hooks and short uppercuts.  

After the Juarez fight, John found himself as the long-time featherweight champ in a white-hot division.  Although his fights against Juarez were not scintillating, he certainly would be a great opponent for Yuriorkis Gamboa or Juan Manuel Lopez.  John is connected with noted boxing advisor Samson Lewkowicz, who delivers foreign fighters to American premium networks better than anyone in the business.  Lewkowicz has warm relations with Golden Boy, Top Rank and Lou DiBella.  If John wanted to get back to America, it could happen easily.

In 2009, the WBA elevated Chris John to super champion.  The "regular" champion in the division is Yuriorkis Gamboa.  Top Rank, which promotes Gamboa, has made overtures to John's camp to set up the fight.  To this point, Top Rank has been rebuffed. 

For Gamboa and Top Rank it's a good fight.  If John were to win, he would outbox Gamboa and most likely not damage or hurt him.  If Gamboa lost, Top Rank could always chalk it up to the Cuban needing more work on tightening up his fundamentals.  His career would not be significantly derailed.

But the risk for John is enormous.  John hasn't exactly defended his title against a Murderer's Row of big punchers.  Marquez and Juarez, John's most notable opponents, both possessed above average power, but they usually stop people by an accumulation of punishment over many rounds, not from one shot or a devastating combination.  John has never fought someone with the power of Gamboa.  Having, been hurt by Juarez in the first fight, knocked down by faded featherweight Derrick Gainer and dropped on two other occasions, John faces real danger in a fight with Gamboa.

John has elected to stay in Indonesia for the time being.  He fought only once in an injury-plagued 2010.  He has an enormous local fight scheduled against fellow countryman Daud Yordan in April.  John will be a significant favorite in that fight.  What's next for John will be up to him.

John has many reasons to stay in Indonesia.  For one, John is big business in his home country.  He sells a lot of tickets and does very good television ratings without facing the best fighters in the division.  Throughout his featherweight reign, only Marquez was considered an elite fighter.  Including the Yordan fight, of his 13 title defenses, 8 have been in Indonesia.   

Furthermore, perhaps, the shaky scoring in his two fights against Juarez forced John to reconsider his enthusiasm for fighting in America.  Prior to the Juarez fights, John wanted to make his mark in America.  He thought the Juarez fights would introduce him to larger audiences.  He may still want these things but to this point he has resisted a return to the American spotlight. 

John has a great gig in Indonesia.  He makes wonderful money fighting "B" opponents at home.  If a good fighter wants to travel to Indonesia to fight him, his team would be willing to entertain that offer.  Travelling to America to fight again is not seen as a high priority.

Again, this theme in boxing of not wanting to fight the best is disconcerting.  Sure, John could retire after a few more defenses and live a wonderful life in his remaining years, but his time as a world-class fighter is now.  There are big fights to be made a featherweight.  For John to take these fights, he faces significant risks with tough style matchups against exceptional talents like Gamboa or Lopez.  Additionally, he may encounter structural risks in terms of getting a fair decision in the U.S.  These are all valid points for consideration but ultimately, to be a transcendent boxing figure, these risks must be taken. 

John is 31.  He may have another two years or so left at the elite level.  Is he content to reel in the small and medium size fish or does he want to go for the glory and chase the sharks and the whales?  What does John want his legacy to be?  If he wants boxing immortality, he will have to leave the comfortable waters of Jakarta. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rankings Movement (Haye, Gamboa, Broner, Lara)

With a lot of activity this month, it's time to take a look at the rankings.  To me, some slight changes are needed.  I realized that there may need to be more than "5" fighters on the cusp, so the new list will just read "Fighters on the Cusp."  These are fighters that would move to elite status by winning another big fight.  For instance, the winner of Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Juan Manuel Lopez would become elite.  To be "On the Cusp," a titleholder or in some cases a former titleholder needs a recent history of beating top-ten opposition within his division.  For fighters moving up or down in weight classes, they will have needed to beat the same level of opposition in their former divisions. With that, here's the list. 

Elevated:  Yuriorkis Gamboa moves to the On the Cusp list.  He is one big win from joining elite status. 

Elevated:  David Haye joins the SNB 10 Boxers on the Rise list.  With his career momentum finally on track after agreeing to fight a Klitschko, Haye's status ascends.

Demoted: Erislandy Lara falls off the Bubbling Under list after his stinker versus Carlos Molina.  Fighting with a lack of passion and urgency gets you off the list.

Demoted:  Adrien Broner was lucky to escape with a win against Daniel Ponce de Leon.  Clearly he has a lot to learn about fighting under the bright lights.  Maybe he finds his way back on the Bubbling Under list in the not-to-distant future. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Notes from the Gamboa-Solis Card

  • Yuriorkis Gamboa put on the performance of his career against Jorge Solis.   With five knockdown over four rounds, he displayed a dominant right hand and left hook.  His speed and power never looked better.
  • More importantly for Gamboa though, was his effective aggression.  After a measured first round, Gamboa created openings by throwing power shots from the outside, specifically lead right hands.  He followed up his initial shots with poise, leaving behind the reckless abandon of his earlier fights.  Gamboa's past style created opportunities for his opponents; he has tasted the canvas on a number of occasions.  Tonight, he was dominant, but in control.
  • This version of Gamboa, who keeps his distance better and doesn't square up when throwing power shots, will create enormous matchup problems for anyone in the featherweight division.  In the past, Gamboa's flaws were obvious and provided at least a possible direction in how to defeat him.  Now, it's gotten that much tougher.
  • It was great to see Juan Manuel Lopez in the ring after the fight tonight.  Both Gamboa and he claim they want to fight each other.  Here's why it needs to happen this year:
  • Top Rank will show us whether it really wants to match Gamboa with Lopez.  It says here that Gamboa defeats Lopez with a late-round knockout in a vicious war.  Maybe Top Rank is protecting Lopez; maybe they are sincerely trying to build the fight.  We will know the truth soon enough.  
  • Mikey Garcia reminds me of former featherweight contender Rocky Juarez.  Like Juarez, Garcia possesses all the skill and technique to be elite, but I'm not quite sure he has the heart or desire.  To beat the best, you have to take risks.  Tonight, Garcia seemed all too content to box from the outside and occasionally mix up his power shots: the lack of urgency was striking.   
  • Time is still on Garcia's side, but by the fourth round it was clear that Matt Remillard had no chance of beating him.  Garcia needed to be more aggressive.  He didn't necessarily discount himself with that performance, but the goal should be to make the boxing public care. 
  • Inviting Nick Charles to call the Garcia-Remillard fight, HBO showed its class tonight.  Charles, battling late-stage cancer, displayed his warmth and love of the sport and people of boxing.  Godspeed, Nick.
  • The fight of the night was clearly the Jorge Diaz-Teon Kennedy fight.  The bout, streamed live on the Top Rank website, featured two local attractions in a junior featherweight clash (Diaz from central Jersey and Kennedy from Philadelphia).  It was a classic style matchup between the aggressive brawler, Diaz, and the slick, counterpuncher, Kennedy. 
  • Diaz started out with guns blazing and it didn't look like Kennedy had enough firepower to keep Diaz off him.  A flash knockdown of Diaz in the third round announced that Kennedy was in the fight.  In the six, Kennedy landed a picture-perfect right hand and dropped Diaz again.  Kennedy followed up with a barrage of punches but Diaz survived the round.
  • By the eighth round, Diaz gathered himself and continued his relentless attack on Kennedy.  Kennedy displayed great counterpunching and smart movement throughout the fight.  He won a unanimous decision (with scores perhaps a little wide) in what was a great scrap. 
  • Kennedy now finds himself in the top-10 or top-15 in the division.  He showed that he has not just the physical tools to beat good boxers but also the mental toughness.  He needs to work on being first and creating more opportunities.  Clearly, he has great counterpunching skills, but against good boxers, he could potentially give away too many rounds, waiting for openings that may never come.  A more varied attack strategy may be the ticket for greater things.  With a few more fights, he'll be ready for a title shot. 
  • Special mention must be made for Steve Smoger, who refereed the Diaz-Kennedy fight.  Many less-experienced refs would have stopped the fight at the end of the sixth, as Diaz was taking serious punishment.  At one point, it looked like Smoger was indeed going to end the bout, but he let it continue.  Fight fans were treated to six more rounds of scintillating action because of Smoger's judgement.  Smoger has the reputation of letting fighters slug it out.  Here, as he often is, Smoger was pitch perfect.   

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Night Boxing on Twitter

Saturday Night Boxing is now on Twitter.  Follow SNB-- @snboxing.  SNB will post live reactions and analysis about the big fights as well as other observations and announcements.  Hope you enjoy. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kermit Cintron -- A Land of Confusion

Kermit Cintron has lost to only two men, both elite fighters,  yet his career momentum has stalled.  Meanwhile, lesser fighters, with better promotional and network support, attain big fights.  Cintron's boxing career has been highlighted by bizarre happenings in the ring.  He has failed to capitalize on his big opportunities and many have questioned his mental toughness and boxing aptitude. 

Antonio Margarito destroyed Cintron in two separate fights with the combination of relentless aggression and merciless body punching.  Cintron crumbled both physically and emotionally against Margarito. 

Sergio Martinez defeated Cintron regardless of what the official ledger reads.  Martinez knocked down Cintron with a short left hand that was so precise and powerful, that Cintron claimed it was a head butt -- the ref agreed.  The bout was subsequently ruled a draw but Martinez easily won by knockout or by at least six points if scoring the fight accurately.  In hindsight, the loss to Martinez doesn't look so bad, as the Argentine has ascended to the top rungs of the boxing ladder.    

Paul Williams did not defeat Cintron -- again, discounting what the official record indicates.  Cintron was boxing beautifully before falling out of the ring.  After landing in the crowd, he did not make it back to the ring in the alotted 20 seconds.  According to the rules of California, the fourth round had to be scored.  In almost all other jurisdictions, the fight would have been ruled a no-contest.  Cintron easily won two of the first three full rounds and shouldn't have lost.

Cintron's achievements on the plus side of the ledger include a thorough outboxing of prospect Alfredo Angulo, a welterweight title, spectacular knockouts and tremendous right hands.  When he was a young titlist, he was regarded as one of the best knockout artists in all of boxing.  

Summing up Cintron's career to this point, his fights are never boring. He's almost must-see TV.   There could be sensational knockouts or additional entries in the annals of historically strange fights. 

Furthermore, Cintron's drama is not exclusive to inside the boxing ring.  He has been through at least four promoters and three trainers.  He has been sued by one former promoter (Main Events) and has essentially been pawned off on another (Lou DiBella recently enlisted Top Rank to co-promote Cintron).  

If it sounds like Cintron hasn't made a lot of friends throughout his boxing career, he's not receiving Christmas bouquets from HBO either.  After his bogus draw with Martinez, Cintron was brought back to be an "opponent" for Angulo, one of the fastest rising prospects in the sport.  The thinking by Gary Shaw, Angulo's promoter, was that Cintron would crumble under the constant pressure, like he did in the fights against Margarito.  After surprisingly and soundly defeating Angulo, Cintron had to wait another year to get a network fight.  Cintron has not fought since the Williams bout ten months ago; in short, he is a man without a country. 

A few years ago, Emanuel Steward was brought in to train Cintron.  It was thought to be a perfect match because Steward was an expert in coaching tall fighters to keep their height, use proper distance and hold or tie-up aggressive opponents on the inside.  Steward was supposed to improve Cintron's defense and vary his offensive attack. The union didn't lead to a better result against Margarito.  The two parted ways and Cintron selected Ronnie Shields as his next trainer.  

It seemed odd when Shields stated that he wanted to make Cintron more of a boxer.  Cintron always looked for the KO and had no "Plan B" if the knockout didn't come.  Usually trainers don't try to make radical changes with experienced fighters.  By emphasizing boxing over knockouts, from the outside it looked like Shields was trying to create a new Cintron -- no more "Killer."  After Martinez outclassed Cintron, the new approach didn't seem to be leading to better outcomes.    

However, if you squint hard enough, you can start to see the maturation of Cintron in the ring.  The new, more patient Cintron performed exceptionally against Angulo and dictated the early rounds against Williams.  Over his last few fights he has incorporated side-to-side movement and patiently works off his jab, awaiting opportunities for power shots.  That Cintron was able to fluster Williams and control distance shows that Shields' teachings have had a significant impact.  It also may be that Cintron is finally a willing pupil. 

However, real questions remain unanswered about Cintron's future.  Will a big network ever take a chance on Cintron again?     Big network money has good reason to shy away from Cintron, with his legacy of disappointments, excuses and mental fragility. 

Do any fighters really need to fight him? Lou DiBella couldn't get any big names in the ring against Cintron; perhaps Top Rank will fare better.  

Cintron will eventually get a shot at one more big fight.  He's still a name and is a dangerous opponent.  There has been talk about facing junior middleweight titleholder Cornelius Bundrage and possibly matching up with Miguel Cotto after Cotto fights Margarito.  Cintron has a good chance to win either fight (the Bundrage fight is a perfect style matchup).  

If he keeps progressing under Shields and stays poised, he might have a real second act.  He seems to have learned how to succeed against pressure fighters and has added different dimensions as boxer.  

But has he learned what it takes to be an elite fighter?  For Cintron has the skills to prevail; that has never been questioned.  He won a title with just a right hand.  Does he have the focus and self-confidence to be great? 

In the next 18 months, he could be on top of the world again, or out of boxing.  Neither outcome would be shocking.   

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SNB Nuggets 3-22-11 (Cotto, Donaire, Top Rank-Golden Boy)

Miguel Cotto is now Top Rank's cash cow.  Selling over 7,000 tickets against Ricardo Mayorga, Cotto has again shown his value in the marketplace.  As I stated here, Cotto is no longer a threat to beat top fighters.  However, with a grudge match against Antonio Margarito most likely coming up and, if victorious, a potential second fight with Manny Pacquiao,  Cotto and Top Rank have mapped out a nice plan in terms of maximizing his earnings in the down slope of his career. 

Make no mistake, his fight with Margarito will be captivating and those two have a wonderful contrast in styles that will always make for great television.  Even with Emanuel Steward in his corner, Cotto has little chance of beating Pacquiao.  However, as boxing fans, we will enjoy his last few fights; Cotto has been a consummate professional and left it all in the ring.
Nonito Donaire has turned many heads in the boxing world, defecting from Top Rank for Golden Boy.  Top Rank claims to have a valid contract and has threatened legal action.  This feud between the two companies just got ratched up to an even higher level.  As referenced in this post,, Top Rank is following the same strategy, raiding Golden Boy for Shane Mosley's services and there are rumblings about Top Rank signing Juan Manuel Marquez to be Pacquiao's opponent after the Mosley fight.

Donaire switches promotional companies frequently.  He has gone from Top Rank to Gary Shaw back to Top Rank and now to Golden Boy.  This actually is pretty common in boxing.  In his career he has also switched trainers, moving from his father to Robert Garcia.  It's too facile to suggest that these changes will negatively affect Donaire in the ring.  There are many fighters that perform quite well with distractions outside of the ring (Pacquiao, Hopkins, Mayweather, etc.).  

However, this controversy was ill-timed for Donaire.  Coming off a career-defining victory, Donaire now faces promotional limbo while his contract status is reviewed and/or adjudicated.    

HBO finds itself in a bind because the network is in the process of wooing Arum, trying to keep additional Top Rank mega-fights from landing at rival Showtime.   At the same time, Golden Boy enjoys favored-nation status with the HBO.  There will be some tough choices to make in the coming months for the HBO brass.

Possible delays to Donaire's momentum might be inevitable.  How all of this plays out is anyone's guess at this point.  I'm just not sure if Donaire realized what kind of shitstorm this would create.  If he did, he's not that smart of a guy.  That's OK.  He's still a tremendous fighter.  I just prefer to see his prime spent in the ring instead of wasting away in professional purgatory, awaiting the resolution of his contract status.
Brad Solomon had a nice victory last Friday against Demetrius Hopkins.  As an emerging welterweight, he has many good qualities that should make him a tough opponent for years to come.  The fighter's best quality is his tenacity.  He was never a top amateur; he was incarcerated.  There was no big-money bankrolling his career.  Solomon has had to climb the ladder one rung at a time. 

The contrast with Hopkins was striking.  Hopkins, blessed with the famous bloodline and big-time promotional contracts, has found every way to squander his opportunities.  He has missed weight, clashed with promoters, trained ineffectually.  His uncle kicked him out of a house for not paying rent.  Demetrius has polish and ring knowledge, but he doesn't have heart.  

Solomon may have some real fights ahead of him.  I don't think he'll ever be elite.  His ambush style (similar to Jean Pascal, Andre Berto and Roy Jones) may be tough to defend against for the B-level fighters.  However, the upper echelon fighters can counterpunch.  Solomon doesn't have the power of Jones or Berto.  He's going to have to pile up points to get his wins but he lacks the athleticism to get in and out without suffering damage.  Great fighters are going to tag him with straight right hands and counter left hooks.

I'd like to see him against Kermit Cintron.  That would be a fun match of styles.  Cintron has real power but questionable internal fortitude.  It would be a great clash.    

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Notes from Bute-Magee, Cotto-Mayorga

·     Lucian Bute surgically destroyed Brian Magee tonight.  Bute has so many weapons -- the uppercut, the jab, the right hook, the commitment to body punching – and he looks to improve every fight.  What I especially liked about Bute tonight was his poise, keeping the appropriate distance from Magee and fighting at his pace.  After a few rounds he realized that his key to victory would be body punching.  He didn't rush. Bute could have taken more risks earlier in the fight but he didn't need to.  He fought the right fight. 
·     I thought the Showtime announcing crew was a little over-eager in awarding Magee credit for landing left hands on Bute.  I mean even Floyd Mayweather gets hit with punches.  Settle down there, crew.  If a guy throws hundreds of shots, he's going to land a few -- even if by accident.  Magee had no real power and couldn't effectively counter Bute.  In actuality, he was just as predicted before the fight: an opponent.   
·     It was a nice touch by Showtime to bring in Mikkel Kessler to commentate on the action.  Kessler said a number of witty things and it certainly beats another egregious, between-round shot of a Showtime fighter who just "happened to be at the fight." 
·     The fighter who beats Lucian Bute must have a supreme game plan a great chin, excellent counterpunching ability, great conditioning and an ability to take the crowd out of the fight.  If you think that sounds a lot like Bernard Hopkins, congratulations and pick up your prize.  I don't know if the 45-year-old version could beat Bute, but he'd make it damn close.  I think the 35-year-old Hopkins would beat Bute in an interesting tactical fight. 
·     I'm not sure which current super middleweight can beat Bute.  Andre Ward is still very much an enigma to me.  He can fight in lots of styles and is far more cerebral than is often credited.  I have questions about his chin and his ability to hurt Bute.  Carl Froch has a puncher's chance.  If Librado Andrade can hurt Bute, so could Froch.  If Froch can't land his Sunday punch, Bute wins easily.
·     You've got to give Interbox, Bute's promoter, credit.  They sure know how to make the in-fight experience memorable.  The lead up to Bute's opening ring-walk extravaganza was excellent.  Plus, any promoter that puts girls in cages during the break between rounds is certainly viewing the fan experience through a different prism than its American promotional counterparts.  I'm not sure how I feel about the cages, but it certainly was a new element.
·     Ricardo Mayorga has supplied a lot of great moments throughout his career.  His taunting of Cotto in the third round, by trying to force him to fight in the corner, was legendary.  In the fourth found, he continued by denouncing every punch that Cotto threw his way.  I was laughing hysterically on the couch.  
·     If this is the end for Mayorga, he has been the best "opponent" of the last decade.  Every fight he has been in has been entertaining.  He has not won many of his biggest fights but he beat that crap out of Shane Mosley, roughed up Cotto's face, gave Fernando Vargas hell in a fight which I thought he won and psychologically and physically destroyed Vernon Forrest in their first fight.  He made (and spent) a lot of money.   For an eight-loss fighter, what a career.    
·     What made the third round so much fun in the Cotto-Mayorga fight was that each fighter epitomized their respective ring essences.  Mayorga was boastful and combative, more than happy to eat shots.  Cotto was poised and focused yet vulnerable to right hands.  Cotto has become a very intelligent fighter.  Maybe younger Cotto would have engaged in a war, like he did with Ricardo Torres.  Older Cotto recognized the trap, kept his distance and landed some vicious hooks to the body and right-hand headshots.  
·     Cotto's days as an elite boxer are over.  Mayorga landed over 40% of his power shots and roughed up Cotto's face.  The standard rule of thumb is any time that a fighter lands one-third of his power shots, he is doing well.  Also factor in that Mayorga's wide, looping shots are perhaps the most telegraphed shots in all of boxing.  If Cotto can't get away from those, whose shots is he going to avoid?  Cotto's defense is just not good enough.  Any fighter with good countering ability and straight punches can land at will on Cotto.  Luckily, the 154 pound division is weak, but I don't think we'll be seeing Cotto in with a beast like Paul Williams any time soon.  
·     Jim Gray had a great between-round interview with Mike Tyson.  Tyson was right.  Cotto-Mayorga did feature two fighters past their respective primes.  But it was a fun fight.  And fun has a place in boxing.  One other note about Showtime, if you have legendary trainer Emanuel Steward working the corner in your broadcast, wouldn't you want to show him giving advice to his fighter.  Perhaps, the audience might find out something more interesting than the endless replays of ineffectual combinations.   

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Now's the Time for Lopez-Gamboa

Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa fought on the same card in January of 2010 at Madison Square Garden.  From that point, the boxing community has insisted that the two featherweights, both promoted by Top Rank, meet to establish supremacy of the division.  Top Rank President Bob Arum has ignored these entreaties, publically stating that the bout would eventually be larger with more exposure for his two belt holders. 

In the interim, both fighters have racked up additional victories, most notably with Juanma's victory over the former champion Rafael Marquez.  Both are scheduled for relatively safe title defense in the next six weeks.  There hasn't been imminent talk about matching them.

In some respects, Arum was correct in holding off the fight.  Both fighters have showed improvement and have continued to build name recognition.   However, neither has become full-fledged stars on the boxing scene and they certainly have been eclipsed by the magnetism of Nonito Donaire in the lower weights. 

Lopez is a star in Puerto Rico.  If the fight were held there, I'm sure they could sell out a medium-sized arena there.  But the big gates aren't in Puerto Rico.  There's a reason why Felix Trinidad's biggest fights weren't on the island.  I'm speculating, but if they fought now in America, they probably could sell somewhere between 6,500-8,000 tickets.  That's certainly a more substantial gate than the small theater in Madison Square Garden where they fought in 2010, but it's not exactly game-changing either.  Most likely, the fight wouldn't warrant the status of a pay-per-view attraction, further limiting potential revenues. 

There were reasonable notes of caution sounded in matching the fighters too soon; both had room for improvement.  Gamboa, who was moved too quickly in his early bouts, gets dropped by almost all decent punchers he faces and was even knocked down by one fighter with relatively little power (Darling Jimenez).  Over the last year he has corrected some of his flaws.  His shots aren't as wide.  He doesn't square up or showboat as much.  In short, he has become a pro. 

Lopez has worked on his stamina since the Rogers Mtagwa fight where he may have been 30 additional seconds from being knocked out of the ring.  He has become more consistent and looks much better in the mid rounds. 

If Arum is truly interested in matching his titleholders (and I'm not sure he is), than 2011 must be the year.  Most pressingly amongst other factors, these young champions aren't so young anymore.  Gamboa is 29; Lopez is 27.  Fighters in the lower weight classes don't often age gracefully.  Additionally, there has been talk about Lopez struggling to make the featherweight limit of 126.  130 lbs. is pretty barren right now in terms of big fights. 

Frankly, I'm not sure how much better Lopez and Gamboa are going to get.  Facing Orlando Salido and Jorge Solis will give the fighters some rounds and the ability to work on things, but those two boxers are not in the same class that the titlists are.  At a certain point, you don't know what have you until you face someone elite.  Despite their two titles, Lopez and Gamboa haven't had those challenges yet.

In boxing today, a belt can be won without defeating top opposition.  Lopez did face Daniel Ponce de Leon to win his title.  Ponce de Leon is certainly a good fighter, but not elite.  Rafael Marquez was an elite fighter at 122 before his punishing series with Israel Vazquez.  Gamboa has yet to face an elite foe. 

Even as the champions continue to improve, they both have weaknesses that can be exploited, which makes the potential matchup so intriguing.  Lopez can still be hurt by counter shots and his stamina issues are not fully resolved.  Gamboa can be knocked down.  He's yet to be seriously hurt in his trips to the canvas, but he has not faced a puncher like Lopez. 

Until they meet, we don't know how all of this will resolve itself.  I get a feeling that Top Rank doesn't really know yet either.  Arum only co-promotes both fighters (although he is the lead promoter for all of their U.S. fights).  His promotional partners may be wary of losing their consistent revenue streams.

Lopez also doesn't seem all that eager to face Gamboa.  If the money were right, he would fight him, but you don't see Juanma throwing too many barbs Gamboa's way.

For all parties involved, this fight is a risk.  The hope is that they have a memorable clash that could lead to a series of meetings or raise one or both of their profiles, so that they would become full-fledged stars in the sport. 

Of course, this fight would demonstrate to boxing fans, and to the boxers themselves, if they possess actually greatness.  In boxing, we used to take it for granted that the quest for greatness and defeating the best functioned as primary motivating factors. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Follow SNB by Email

Saturday Night Boxing has a new way to view its content.  You can now have daily emails of new SNB posts sent directly to you.  By using the "Follow SNB by Email" tab on the top right of the blog, you can subscribe to SNB through a vaild email address.  You will receive a daily email from SNB whenever there is new content posted.  SNB does not keep email addresses or other personal information; the subscription is administered through the blog hosting system, Blogspot and its Feedburning application.  (Feedburning, what a terrible name!)  I hope you take advantage of this new feature and I'll keep the new content coming.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A More Formal Introduction

After one month of Saturday Night Boxing and reaching the milestone of 1,000 fans on the Facebook page for the blog, I thought it was time for a more proper introduction. I wanted to let you know a little bit more about the blog, its founder, what to expect in the future and a few interesting stats about the readership and the fans of Saturday Night Boxing.

First of all, let me say that I'm excited that so many have you have taken the time to read my posts, become a fan and comment on my observations and articles.  Although, providing my opinions about the world of boxing was the initial motivating factor behind the blog, the interaction and the responses from you, the readers, create the real excitement.

SNB will feature two types of posts.  The first will be observations about the major figures and trends in boxing.  My goal for these posts will be to provide different slants and topics that are not expressed in mainstream boxing coverage.  I'm not going to follow the standard boxing reporter beat of previewing fights, obtaining quotes and providing predictions (although it's not possible to lay off the predictions completely). 

I'm avoiding these standard tasks because I think boxing reporters do a fine job in these areas and let's face it, I have a day job.  I can't call into to four press conferences a week and I have no backing sending me to weigh-ins, sparring sessions, global destinations etc.  However, as I said, I believe that these angles are being sufficiently covered.
What I believe is missing in boxing writing is the analysis of the major happenings in the sport as well as the lack of coverage regarding fighters' game plans and execution.  I get as excited as the next boxing fan when David Haye signs on to fight Wladimir Klitschko, but taking a step back and analyzing what that means to the fighters and the sport as a whole needs proper attention. 

It's not enough to predict that Sergio Martinez will win by a late stoppage.  The "why" and "how" to me are more important.  Last week's Martinez-Dzinziruk fight was so fascinating because of Martinez's game plan and Martinez’s pinpoint execution.  That fight proved the brilliance of Gabriel Sarmiento, Martinez's trainer.

The second type of article that will appear on SNB is the "Notes" post.  Here, I want to give my initial impressions of big fights.  It's great that some fighter won by a decision or an 8th round knockout, but again, why did that happen and how was that able to occur?  I'm very happy that the "Notes" articles have become the most well read content on SNB.  Like many of you, after a big fight, I get all jazzed up and I want to read as much as I can about what I just witnessed.  Hopefully, I can add to your post-fight enjoyment.

A few other things:  as the profile says on both the blog and the Facebook page, SNB's focus will be on the major players (boxers, trainers, promoters, networks) in boxing.  This will not be a forum for discussing 4-0 prospects, journeymen or faded veterans.  My goal here is to cover the boxing entities which are most familiar to broader boxing fans.  Practically every boxer I discuss can be found on a major network.  

Also, I am an American and spend almost all of my time in the U.S.  I try to write about as many international boxers as I can (Martinez, Donaire, Montiel, Argentina boxing, Dzinziruk, Alvarez, Haye, etc.), but for the most part, if they aren't appearing on American television, they will most likely not receive SNB attention.  There will be exceptions to this rule.  For instance, Frank Warren has a huge stable of fighters in the U.K. without much U.S. television exposure.  I'm sure for many of these fights I will be trolling the Internet looking for a feed.  If it’s a major fight, I’ll find it. 
I came to boxing the same way as many of you did: Mike Tyson.  I remember staying at home on Saturday nights as a kid watching Tyson fight Frank Bruno, Larry Holmes, etc.  For me, I was hooked.  As I grew older I stayed close to boxing, remembering fondly the Boye-Holyfield trilogy, the Tyson-Holyfield fights and the de la Hoya-Mosley pair. 

I think by 2001, I became a full-fledged boxing addict.  That year featured Don King's middleweight tournament and the riveting climax of Bernard Hopkins destroying Felix Trinidad.  In Hopkins, I found my favorite fighter.  Like the Executioner, I'm from Philadelphia.  However, that parochial connection was not really what drew me to him.  There are a lot of Philly fighters that I don't really enjoy watching and/or feel no particular attachment to. 

What drew me to Hopkins was his cerebral mastery of the sport.  How he consistently took away his opponents best weapons.  How he made world-class fighters always fight his fight.  How dispirited his opponents looked after fighting him.  Also, while rooting for Hopkins, I noticed pearls of wisdom coming from his corner by former trainer Bouie Fisher and later Naazim Richardson.  In terms of coming up with a strategy and executing game plan, there was no team that was better. 

I must admit that I do have some bias for Hopkins.  To my eyes, I have not had Hopkins losing a fight in the last decade.  His losses to Taylor and Calzaghe were controversial.  Most observers thought he won the first Taylor fight and the draw with Pascal.  I realize that I may give him extra benefits when scoring his fights. 

I also realize that when I score fights, I favor clean punching and defense over pressure fighters that don't land telling blows or jab-happy fighters that don't do any real damage.  I also like body shots and counterpunching.  There is no sweeter punch in boxing than Floyd Mayweather's check-hook. 

My first fight I ever saw live was the Cotto-Quintana and Margarito-Clottey double bill in December of 2006 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.  It was a birthday present and my girlfriend at the time got me floor seats and let me know that I didn't have to take her.  She wasn't even a boxing fan.  What an understanding girlfriend! 

When Cotto landed his finishing left hook, the crowd went wild.  The euphoria in the crowd after a great knockout is unbeatable.  

I probably see about three or four live fight cards a year.  My last one was Martinez’s crushing second-round knockout of Paul Williams.  That punch was so fast that most in the crowd didn’t even see it.  They way Williams fell over I thought it was a body shot at first. 

There is nothing like seeing a live fight.  For all of you that haven't had that experience yet, please pursue at your earliest convenience.  It will make you a fan for life.
I started the blog in early February.  Already I have 1,100 or so fans on Facebook.  Most of you found out about the site by clicking the ad on your Facebook profile page.  I started advertising the ad in 5 countries (U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada and Australia) and now have expanded to 25.  Interestingly, many people have found the site from countries in which I do not advertise, for instance, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Norway.  In total, I have fans on the Facebook page from 38 countries.  Not too bad for one month.   

The top three countries in terms of page views on the blog are the U.S., the U.K. and the Philippines.  The top three countries in terms of fans on Facebook are the U.K., Ireland and the U.S.  

Some other factoids:  70% or the fans of SNB on Facebook are under 25.  That sounds young but I don't know what the distribution on Facebook is as a whole.  Is 70% of the traffic on Facebook under 25?  I don't have that information. 

About 90% of the fans are men.  This number seems high to me.  But let me say, the girls that are fans of this site are a great looking bunch or they have wonderfully attractive profile avatars.  Welcome, my female readers and SNB Facebook fans.   

I always check the profile information once people join to see where they are from.  I never outgrew my love for geography.  Just this week, the site had its first new fans from the Ukraine, Sweden and India. 

The growth of the blog has been exciting to me.  I find myself checking Facebook and Saturday Night Boxing on Blogspot many times a day to see if more people have read the posts or became fans of the Facebook page.  

I encourage your feedback. Keep in mind that it's an all-ages Facebook site.  The feedback is what makes it fun.  Feel free to email me with comments.  And again, thank you for your time and consideration.  

Now let's get back to the boxing.