Sunday, February 27, 2011

Notes from Rios-Acosta

What an exciting and fascinating fight last night between two of the best lightweights in the world.  Brandon Rios, the American pressure fighter rallied to defeat the wily titleholder from Venezuela, Miguel Acosta. Here are some notes about the fight:
  • No sparring partner resembles Miguel Acosta.  Acosta's style is very unique.  He's a mover who also likes to fight off the ropes.  He throws lead uppercuts from the outside.  Even though Acosta can box, he prefers power shots, especially a hesitation-style left hook that looks like it's going to be a jab.  His right hand is almost a right hook.  He throws unconventional combinations like right uppercut-left hook-looping right hand. 
  • Remember the name Robert Garcia, Rios' trainer.  Garcia trains both Rios and Nonito Donaire.  I'd say he's having a pretty good month.  Garcia had his boxer fight the perfect fight.  Garcia, through studying tapes, realized that the only way to beat Acosta is to apply constant pressure, cut off the ring and hurt him with power shots.  He had enough faith in his fighter to know that Rios' chin could withstand the early onslaught.  Even after some shaky early rounds, Garcia's game plan and philosophy didn't change.  Credit Garcia for having Rios in supreme condition which helped him survive Acosta's vicious power shots in the early rounds.  
  • Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the match was that both boxers fought the fight that they wanted.  Acosta liked fighting off the ropes because his uppercuts could do the most damage.  That position also was the right range for his looping right hand.  Rios wanted the fight in close quarters where he could throw his hooks and body shots.  If Acosta moved all night, I don't think that Rios could have caught him.  However, Acosta's money punch was his short uppercut (either left or right hand), which for some fighters can be tough to throw in the center of the ring.
  • A country with a good amateur program would have taken Acosta's style and gutted it to make him more conventional.   That is a shame because unconventional fighters help make the sport interesting.  Boxing would be less enjoyable if everyone followed the same two or three accepted blueprints of what a world-class fighter is supposed to look like.     
  • Al Bernstein from Showtime said it perfectly last night.  This fight was a battle of the chins.  It wasn't a battle of wills, because both fighters fought their fight.  The crucial difference of the fight was that Brandon Rios withstood brutal punishment for the first five rounds but Acosta could not survive the left hook and that crippling right hand which ended the fight.
  • It's always fun when someone gets knocked down by a jab.  It doesn't happen often (Sam Peter dropped James Toney with a jab) but it does happen.  Usually, the scenario only occurs when a fighter is off-balance, but last night's jab knockdown was clean.
  • Brandon Rios is a vicious pressure fighter, but he is beatable.  I think a vintage version of Juan Manuel Marquez boxes rings around him. Stylistically, Robert Guerrero could be a tough match up for Rios, but I don't think Guerrero has the focus or discipline to stay in that type of firefight for 12 rounds.  A boxer-puncher with top-flight jabs and ring generalship could give Rios problems.  Though there aren't too many of those in the division right now.
  • Kudos to Top Rank for their matchmaking.  All week long, Bob Arum was confident that Rios-Acosta was going to produce fireworks.  His matchmakers, whether Bruce Trampler or Brad Goodman, are the best in the business.  Top Rank matched Rios very tough last night.  Now Rios and Arum will reap the rewards.
  • Also, kudos to Showtime for taking a chance on Miguel Acosta.  The Venezuelan had a very low profile, even as a titleholder.  He had only fought in the United States once prior to last night and that was in 2007.  Showtime didn't panic though.  They watched tape.  They saw Acosta's style and highlight-reel type knockouts.  Showtime took a chance and made a great fight.  They also found a great TV fighter in the future if Acosta is matched properly.
  • I don't know whom Rios fights next but with his demolishment of Anthony Peterson and Miguel Acosta, he has quickly become one of the most exciting television fighters in boxing.  I'm not yet sure if he can be in a bad fight.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Stealth Ascendency of Argentine Boxers

I have to admit: I don't have boots on the ground in Argentina.  Although I visited the country once, I didn't take a tour of the local boxing scene in Buenos Aires.  I don't know if Argentina has invested significant resources into their amateur program.  I am unaware if there has been a building boom of boxing gyms in the country.  I don't have any first-hand knowledge if there have been significant investments by Argentine television networks in boxing.  However, what I am quite sure of is that there has been an explosion of boxing talent from Argentina over the last decade.   

Over the last two years, Sergio Martinez and Marcos Maidana have become household names in boxing circles.  Martinez defeated pound-for-pound entrant Paul Williams and middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik.  Maidana upended fast rising prospect Victor Ortiz and lost to titleholder Amir Khan in an excellent match.  Another Argentine, Lucas Matthysse, lost a debatable decision to Zab Judah in his hometown and is in talks to fight top-5, 140-pounder Devon Alexander.  

These three fighters are perhaps most familiar to boxing fans but there are other excellent Argentine pugilists at or nearing the highest ranks of the sport.  Omar Narvaez, a current junior bantamweight titleholder was an Olympian in 1996 and 2000.  He has amateur wins over Joan Guzman, Steve Molitor and Jose Navarro.  He has defended his title 15 times.  Narvaez has one of his toughest fights coming up against undefeated Puerto Rican Cesar Seda in April.  

Jonathan Barros rebounded from his loss to Yuriorkis Gamboa and picked up a vacant featherweight title in 2010.  He may fight Celestino Caballero later this year.  Luis Lazarte is a junior flyweight titleholder--although not an altogether impressive one.   Juan Carlos Reveco is an interim titleholder in the same division. 

Luis Abregu hooked up with American promoter Gary Shaw and beat some fine welterweight prospects before running into Timothy Bradley.  Jorge Barrios and Hugo Garay, both former titleholders, may still have some good boxing left in them. 

Beyond the obvious -- that there are a lot of world-class boxers from Argentina -- not many trends are readily apparent.  Boxers both big (Garay, Martinez) and small (Reveco, Narvaez) have had success.  These boxers hail from different parts of the country and  Sergio Martinez even left Argentina to seek opportunities in Spain. 

Stylistically, they vary as well, from the boxer-puncher quickness of Sergio Martinez to the seek-and-destroy methods of Maidana and Matthysse to the technical discipline of Narvaez.  Many of these boxers have fought around the world; some have stayed in Argentina.

The current wave of Argentine fighters have enriched the sport.  Martinez and Maidana are colorful characters and have unique and pleasing styles.  Matthysse could win a title before his run is through.  Jorge Barrios was in a number of slugfests in his day.   I'm sure there will be other great fights to come from this group in the future. 

It's quite clear that Gabriel Sarmiento has emerged as an elite trainer with Martinez.  The game plans that he devised for Pavlik, Cintron and the Williams rematch were excellent.  In watching the Williams rematch, it is obvious that the straight right hand that felled Paul the Punisher was practiced to the art of perfection.  With Martinez, Sarmiento is working with someone who is athletically gifted, can fight going forwards and backwards (perhaps not terribly dissimilar to Joe Calzaghe) and is mentally strong.  Sarmiento's cerebral approach to boxing and Martinez's varied offensive arsenal make a fascinating team. 

However, Sarmiento did not have a perfect year in 2010.  The game plan for Lucas Matthysse did not fully succeed.  Although, Judah eventually did fade, the Argentine's corner (which included Sarmiento) did not encourage its fighter to press the action fast enough.  Nevertheless, it's very possible that had the fight been in a different location, Matthysse would have won.

One interesting observation about the sudden prominence of elite Argentine boxers is that the country is not new to the sport; however, there was a large period of boxing dormancy prior to this current wave.   Argentina has had a rich boxing tradition.  Carlos Monzon was one of the most famous middleweight stars in the history of the sport.  Victor Galindez was another great Argentine champion in the '70s.  Miguel Castellini was also a world titleholder in that era.  Yet, from that period to this current era, the boxing scene was practically devoid of world-class talents.

With everything above so noted, I have no grand sociological statement to make about what has spurred these latest developments, other than to acknowledge the trend.  Argentine boxing is on the rise again.   

2010 was a great year for Argentine fighters.  Martinez became a household name in boxing circles.  Maidaina is must-watch TV.  This year could even surpass last year's achievement, with big fights expected for Martinez, Maidana, Matthysse, Narvaez and Jonathan Barros.

With all of the hype that usually surrounds the boxing world, the relative lack of attention to what has emerged in Argentina has been surprising.  It's time to shed some additional light. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hope on the Middleweight Horizon

Over the last decade, the middleweight division has been as thin as a supermodel.  Since the middleweight unification tournament of 2001 which featured Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad, Keith Holmes and William Joppy, the division has featured no more than a couple of elite fighter at any one time.  In the interim, Bernard Hopkins' reign was ended by Jermain Taylor, who held onto the top spit in the division for several ineffectual defenses.  Other top-tier fighters such as Winky Wright and Kelly Pavlik have come and gone.  The European champions, such as Felix Sturm and former champ Arthur Abraham, were content to stay protected in their home turf of Germany against limited opposition. 

But now, there is a fresh crop of young middleweights. These new fighters are hungry and looking to make names for themselves. Suddenly, the barren middleweight division might become one of the best divisions in the sport over the next two to three years.  

This next wave hails from all over the world and features a variety of styles.  The cream of the crop is four undefeated fighters: David Lemieux from Canada, Dmitry Pirog from Russia, Fernando Guerrero from the United States by way of the Dominican Republic and Gennady Golovkin from Germany by way Kazakhstan.  Pirog and Golovkin are already titleholders and Lemieux and Guerrero should be ready for title shots by early 2012 at the latest.  

As far as amateur backgrounds go, Golovkin was a silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics.  Pirog and Guerrero were both decorated amateurs in Russia and the U.S. respectively.  Lemieux turned pro at 18 as has been ascending the ranks at warp speed.

Lying just beneath this top tier is another solid group of emerging middleweights.  Sebastian Zbik (Germany) is already an interim titleholder.  Matthew Macklin (England) just signed with Golden Boy and has a featured spot on U.S. pay-per-view in the spring against Winky Wright.  Daniel Geale (Australia) Darren Barker (England) and Daniel Jacobs (U.S.) also fit into this group.  Here you have brawlers (Macklin), technical fighters (Zbik, Barker, Geale) and boxer-punchers (Jacobs).  

In addition, three other middleweights are getting additional U.S. television exposure this spring, but may be suspects more than prospects at this point: Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (Mexico), Craig McEwan (U.S. via Scotland) and Andy Lee (U.S. via Ireland).  

All of the fighters mentioned above are young and just starting to hit their stride as major figures in boxing.  When you place these 12 in the division with a pound-for-pound king (Sergio Martinez) and two solid titleholders (Felix Sturm and Sebastian Sylvester), you have the makings of high drama in the middleweight division.

At this point, no one can predict how the future will unfold for these young titleholders and prospects.  Many will have their records impacted by each other.  Pirog already knocked out Jacobs.  Zbik is in talks to fight Chavez Jr. this spring.  

Ultimately, with this much talent in the division, there should be lots of excitement to come.  As the boxing community frets about the lack of suitable opponents for Sergio Martinez, realize that the wait won't be too long.  If Martinez decides to head north to super middleweight, don't worry.  The division will be in great hands.   

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Network Archive

Saturday Night Boxing created a new Network Archive page which lists the posts that discuss the major boxing networks (mostly American).  The Bob Arum article is the first one listed for HBO and Showtime.  To read page, you can find it on the upper right hand side of the blog, or click http://saturdaynightboxing.blogspot.com/p/network-archive.html to access it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bob Arum: The Magician's Latest Tricks

Bob Arum is having a good month. After years of boxing getting shunned by American network television, Arum has lined up CBS to heavily promote the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley fight. With Nonito Donaire's performance over the weekend, Arum's company, Top Rank, unearthed perhaps the next American boxing star. Oh, and to top it all off, Top Rank's main rival, Golden Boy, might be losing another one of its big name fighters, leaving the company for the chance to be Manny Pacquiao's next victim opponent.

Arum, more than any other American promoter, is willing to buck conventional wisdom. Even at his advanced age, he is pushing the boundaries of the status quo, which bolster, his fighters, the sport of boxing and himself (usually in that order).

Having argued with HBO over the years about dates and their reluctance to buy his fights, Arum convinced Showtime to get back in the pay-per-view business after a half-decade-long hiatus. Instead of helplessly and routinely spinning the competitiveness of Pacquiao's next fight, he got CBS involved to help Pacquiao reach new, casual fans.

No mere one night stand, Showtime and Top Rank have also decided to date each other again after seeing others. Arum has fights with Miguel Cotto and rising star Brandon Rios on Showtime in the next few months.

The ramifications of these events cannot be overstated. Juan Manuel Marquez, perhaps Golden Boy's last remaining elite fighter under 40, was unwilling to fight Eric Morales. Reportedly, he wants to become a free agent so he can have one more shot at Pacquiao. According to respected boxing writer, Thomas Hauser, HBO was so incensed at losing Pacquiao to Showtime that they are doing a full organizational review of their boxing program.

Click on this link
http://www.boxingscene.com/what-hbo-now-part-one--36193 for more about the in-house drama at HBO.

If it sometimes seems as if Bob Arum is playing chess while almost everyone else in boxing is playing checkers, there is no disagreement here. These latest steps of Top Rank have been masterful. Arum is slowly and methodically defanging his opponents, one-upping his nemeses and overcoming roadblocks.

That is not to suggest that Golden Boy won't survive or that HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg is out of a job. There will be other battles to fight in the future. And if there aren't, Arum will magically invent some.

For Top Rank, they couldn't be in any better negotiating position. HBO must be scared to death of letting Donaire slip through their fingers. In truth, Showtime had the first crack at Donaire, but instead they hitched their wagon to Donaire victim Vic Darchinyan. The world is Donaire's oyster right now and everyone in boxing knows it. The need for stars and big fights will also help Arum line up additional HBO fights for Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez. Don't be surprised to see HBO debuts for Steve Molitor and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in the near future as well.

Showtime also will have a taste of that sweet Pacquiao gravy train. Barring some unforeseen disaster, All of Pacquiao's fights from now on will be heavily battled between various network and corporate interests. Again, advantage Top Rank.

Juan Manuel Marquez wants to fight Pacquiao so badly that he might even offer his services at a far reduced level. This circumstance arises after somehow Top Rank, or a back channel proxy, convinced Mosley to relinquish his equity share of Golden Boy to fight the Pac Man. There may be some uneasy conference calls going on at Golden Boy headquarters right now.

What separates Top Rank from other promotional outlets are two things: a willingness to take risks and the ability to build stars. These are not abstract concepts. Top Rank has the big bankroll, sure, but they are willing to put their boxers in their own pay per views and nurture fighters at their own pace.

Top Rank can take a Filipino American like Nonito Donaire and build him through the Filipino audience which they helped establish with Pacquiao. Top Rank understands how to identify talent, how to develop and match them, and how to forge long-term relationships with the right managers and trainers to take excellent talents to the next level.

In another prescient move, Arum has rejected exclusive network contracts for his fighters, instead retaining flexibility as opportunities develop. This allows him to individually negotiate better deals for each fight, capitalizing on momentum and demand within the boxing community.

Some speed bumps are ahead. Donaire is technically a free agent this year. He's most likely not going anywhere but Arum needs to show him some real love and affection. Timothy Bradley and Amir Khan could also become free agents this year. If either of them hit the market, huge bidding wars will commence. Both Golden Boy and Top Rank have already fired shots across the bow regarding Bradley. Expect delicious machinations (and their accompanying priceless quotes) to ensue.

Many have disagreed with Bob Arum's methods over the years and have tried to deem him irrelevant. Year after year, the elder promoter continues to prevail.

Yes, Bob Arum is a crusty old man sometimes (not necessarily endearing, like Merlin, the avuncular wizard). He can be profane. He gets in petty arguments. He has interesting relationships with facts and truth.

Although many suggest that Arum conjures magical statements from mysterious orifices, his latest bit of sorcery has handcuffed his chief rivals and may yet lead to the disappearance of others. Additionally, with Donaire, Arum has pulled another hare out of his top hat.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rankings Movement and the Bubbling Under List

Some changes were made today to the SNB boxing lists.  Nonito Donaire was elevated to the SNB Elite Fighters list.  Paul Williams debuted on the "5 Fighters on the Cusp" list and Fernando Montiel was removed.  Guillermo Rigondeaux was placed on the "SNB 10 Boxers on the Rise list."  Also, SNB created a new "Bubbling Under" list for those emerging talents that are in line for bigger things over the next 12 months.  The list is as follows:

  • Adrien Broner--lightweight, USA       

  • Anselmo Moreno--bantamweight, Panama

  • Denis Boytsov--heavyweight, Germany

  • Dmitry Pirog--middleweight, Russia 

  • Erislandy Lara--junior middleweight, USA/Cuba

  • Gennady Golovkin--middleweight, Kazakhstan 

  • John Murray--lightweight, England 

  • Kell Brook--welterweight, England 

  • Mike Jones--welterweight, USA 

  • Ricky Burns --junior lightweight, Scotland
  • Notes from the Donaire-Montiel card

    • From this point on, Nonito Donaire is one of the elite boxers of the sport.  Now with his second signature win of his career (the first being Vic Darchinyan), Donaire is the class below featherweight.  A scrap with Abner Mares might be a fun fight but I'm most interested in seeing how Donaire responds to the higher weights.  It's clear he can carry 122 lbs., but the big game is up at 126.  Top Rank has Steve Molitor and Guillermo Rigondeaux at 122.  If Donaire wants to move up, I think Molitor is the best match-up at this point.  If Donaire wants to wait to see who wins the Showtime bantamweight tourney, that is his right, but I think the bigger money is at featherweight.
    • Don't underestimate the influence of Victor Conte in Donaire's success.  The former BALCO trainer and nutritionist is doing things that are leaps and bounds above most other conditioning coaches.  If everything is legit (and I hope it is), Donaire has an immense advantage in conditioning over most other fighters.
    • That was an absolutely devastating left hook that floored Fernando Montiel.  That Montiel got up demonstrates his champion mettle but his age and the fact that he weighed in as a super featherweight leads me to believe that we have seen the last of Fernando Montiel as an elite fighter.  If he can't make 118 comfortably, he's in big trouble because his chin can't take the higher weights.  Perhaps he has an entertaining fight with Joseph Agbeko left, but I think Montiel's best ended in 2010.
    • Mike Jones is a solid A-minus fighter.  His jab is A-minus.  His power is A-minus.  His athleticism is A-minus.  His arsenal is A-minus.  In fact, this makes him a strange fighter.  Most A-minus fighters do a couple of things great and have a fatal flaw or two.  Thus they average out to an A-minus.  Jones is a well-rounded fighter who gave his best performance tonight.  I'm not sure I've seen greatness yet in him but I definitely am intrigued.
    • In the 11th round, after he scorched Soto-Karass with a straight right hand, Jones tried to finish Soto-Karass off with a couple of left hooks.  Once he saw that Soto-Karass wasn't going down, he backed off.  In that exchange, it was apparent that Jones learned a lot from his last fight and he understood that forcing the action wasn't going to lead to the knockout.  With all of Jones' athletic gifts, we should add boxing aptitude and coachablility to the list.  These are very important advances.
    • I think the obvious fight in 2011 is Mike Jones and Andre Berto.  At this point, I favor Berto with his athletic gifts, versatility in the ring and awkward, aggressive style.  But with another fight or two, Jones may well be on that level.  If I were Berto, I would strike while the iron is hot and take on Jones before it is too late. 
    • Jesus Soto-Karass is the ultimate welterweight trial horse.  If you can't beat him, you can't be an elite welterweight.  Unfortunately, as a pressure fighter, his work rate is not busy enough.  He has the heart but he can't match the ferocity of Antonio Margarito or Jose Luis Castillo.  Too much of tonight, Soto-Karass doubled as a piƱata in addition to a fighter.  He is what he is and there may be a nice payday or two left for him. 
    • Joe Goossen is still one of the best ring strategists out there.  Not many people understand the fight game better than he does.  He no longer gets much of the elite boxing talent and I'm not sure if today's new conditioning and training techniques have passed him by, but as a cornerman and ring strategist he is simply one of the best.   

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Donaire-Montiel Prediction

    Donaire wins by late knockout  (anytime after the 8th round).  Montiel can be put on the canvas and Donaire's pressure and clean punching will be too much for the older veteran.  I think after this fight, a new star will be born. 


    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Changes, Changes

    A whole slew of changes today on the Saturday Night Boxing Blog.  Find out to see which two fighters got added to the SNB Elite fighter list.  Also a new list of "5 Fighters on the Cusp" highlights boxers knocking on the door of the elite level.  Finally, a "Boxer Archive" page was created so you can find SNB's articles on your favorite fighters. 

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Paul Williams Needs Emanuel Steward

    Paul Williams ranks in the upper echelon of contemporary prizefighters.  He defeated Antonio Margarito who at the time was ascending pound-for-pound lists.  He beat Sergio Martinez in their first fight.  He had a dominant win overy Winky Wright.

    However, Paul Williams also turned in a lackluster performance in the first fight with Carlos Quintana -- got starched by Martinez in their rematch and failed to inspire in a bizarre fight against Kermit Cintron. 

    Williams' attributes -- listed as 6'1" (and probably taller) with the reach of a heavyweight -- make him a formidable opponent against anyone in his surrounding weight classes.  His style is difficult to prepare for.  He has a swarming and high-volume attack.  At times he almost resembles a pressure fighter.

    Yet Williams has proven to be mortal.  He does some things really well.  He is always in shape, he has the attitude of a fighter and he features a blistering work rate.  Yet Williams' deficiencies are real: he gives up his height, he gets lazy with his jab, he smothers himself on the inside and he doesn't have knockout power. 

    His trainer George Peterson has done some good things for his career.  Peterson recognized that he had a unique athletic talent and didn't try to make him a conventional fighter.  Williams’ offensive arsenal features an array of jabs, hooks, uppercuts and straight left hands.  Peterson melded a kid from the boxing-poor southeastern part of America into a titleholder. 

    However it is clear that Williams isn't progressing -- at least on the elite level.  Some of this stagnation could be attributed to the inactivity that comes with being a premium network fighter.  There are only so many dates a year and their isn't the immediate economic incentive for most fighters to be more active off premium cable. 

    But Williams' struggles might also result from the technical flaws that aren't getting cleaned up.  When Sergio Martinez's trainer, Gabriel Sarmiento, predicted that his fighter would knock out Williams in the second round before the rematch -- and then it happened -- obviously these flaws are becoming more pronounced and easy to counter.

    It is time for Williams to correct these deficiencies.  The best person for the role, Mr. Fix-it himself, is Emanuel Steward.  Steward probably is the best trainer in the business in working with tall fighters and teaching them how to "fight tall."  In essence, "fighting tall" means working behind the jab, keeping appropriate space and not giving up the height advantage. 

    Steward also excels in having his boxers really sit down on their punches, committing to the crosses and uppercuts, not just throwing them.  Emanuel likes offensive fighters and this could be a particularly interesting match.

    However, this union may not be perfect.  Take a look at this list of top-class fighters trained by Steward:
       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Steward
    You don't see too many southpaws on this list.  In addition, although Steward  may be exceptional in teaching fighters to work off the jab and fire the old 1-2, Williams is anything but conventional.

    There is some risk involved but I think it is one that Williams needs to take to reach that one precipice that has eluded him so far: greatness.  He has won titles in multiple divisions but how often has he inspired?

    His ho-hum knockout percentage of 66% (certainly no Punisher!) could be improved with Steward's tutelage.  He could learn how to fight with more purpose on the inside.  Most importantly, he could stop flicking out his jab and throw it with purpose.

    If this union were indeed to work, Steward would have to let Williams continue some of the awkwardness (lead right hooks, triple and quadruple jabs, punches from weird angles) that makes him so formidable. 

    The ball is in Williams' court.  To this point, he wants to continue with Peterson.  But the time for a new course of action is now.  With no immediate, big fight on the horizon, Williams should hire Steward and take the rematch with Cintron.  With Manny's guidance, Williams should be able to send that emotionally fragile fighter (and former Steward pupil) out of the ring the traditional way.  

    Williams isn't getting any younger and there are still things to learn.  Business as usual has not been good enough.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Lou DiBella, Time to go to Work!

    Through some serendipitous cosmic event, Lou DiBella wound up with one of the three best fighters in all of boxing.  Sergio Martinez is the lineal middleweight champion of the world and a former junior middleweight champion.  Martinez has a crowd-pleasing style, the looks of a model and a willingness to fight the biggest names out there. 

    With the temporary defection of the Manny Pacquiao to Showtime and the continued hiatus of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Martinez now finds himself in the pole position of featured HBO fighter.  He is their biggest star. 

    Up until this point, HBO has not afforded Martinez any soft touches.  After the egregious draw in the Kermit Cintron fight, Martinez was a late replacement for the Paul Williams fight.  He was forced to move up a weight division to fight the middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and HBO basically mandated that he fight Williams in a rematch in order to reappear on the network.  In the aftermath of Martinez's stunning knockout of Williams, again HBO essentially dictated that Martinez fight the tough and technical junior middleweight titlist, Sergiy Dzinziruk.

    Some of this treatment by HBO is understandable.  Martinez was not part of any master plan or marketing effort by HBO.  The network was not looking for some mid 30s Argentine boxer who lost to his most notable opponent (Antonio Margarito).  But things change. Their anointed young guns like James Kirkland, Victor Ortiz, Alfredo Angulo, Andre Berto and others have failed to gain the  momentum for one reason or another.  

    Essentially Martinez fell into HBO's lap.  Lou DiBella has done a yeoman's job in getting Martinez exposure on the cable network.  However, what has he done to expand Martinez's name beyond the hardcore boxing faithful?

    Should Martinez win the fight on March 12 (and he is the favorite), DiBella has the enviable position of being able to change the terms of how Martinez is treated by HBO and within the boxing industry as a whole.  With the victory, HBO will need Martinez far more than Martinez needs HBO. 

    It's time for DiBella to be bold.  If I were he, I would have HBO run a file search and pull up one of those old three-fight deals that they used to give to Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather.  Without any obvious big fight for Martinez in the immediate future, DiBella and HBO (or another entity) now must build Martinez into an A-side.  There are good "boxing" fights to be had with titleholders like Dmitry Pirog, Felix Sturm and Sebastian Zbik.  These fighters are not big names in America but HBO has many reasons to fund Martinez's Excellent European Adventure, especially as Pacquio continues on the faded champions tour and Mayweather refamiliarizes himself with the Clark County Courthouse sundry accouterments. 

    In time, there are many big fights for martinez on the horizon.  Young guns like David Lemieux and Fernando Guerrero are ascending the middleweight ranks.  Martinez could also go to super middleweight to fight Andre Ward or Lucian Bute.  Those would be spectacular fights.

    For Lou DiBella, it is time that he adds marketing and promoting to his role as cable TV slot-getter.  He has a potential huge name.  It is not enough to have press conferences with boxing writers.  Think out of the box.  Get Martinez a spread in Esquire or the New York Times fashion magazine.  Have him play around with Major League Soccer's All Stars or Spain's national team.  Work not just the boxing writers but the sports editors as a whole.  Martinez has a compelling story and a gregarious personality.   

    At a certain point, DiBella and his level of promoters (Dan Goossen and Gary Shaw, for example) have to make their own luck and stop complaining about the American duopoly of bigtime boxing promotion.  Now is the time to think big.  Lou, you have your star, you have a network, now go to work!

    Trainers Page

    Saturday Night Boxing has a new "Trainers" page dedicated to articles that feature some of the most noted trainers in the sport.  The first article is about Jack Loew and Kelly Pavlik.  The page can be found on the right-hand side of the blog under "Pages." 

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    The Strange Career of Fernando Montiel

    The premium U.S. boxing networks (HBO and Showtime) periodically dip into the smaller weight classes -- those below featherweight.  Over the last decade or so, we have seen a smattering of fights that included such headliners as Jorge Arce, Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson, Tim Austin and more regular coverage of Rafael Marquez and Vic Darchinyan.  Showtime has given more exposure to the lower weights in the recent years with Darchinyan, Agbeko and the bantamweight tournament. 

    Fernando Montiel won his first championship belt in 2000.  Over the last ten years, he has been a champion for eight and a half of them.  He has defended his various belts (flyweight, junior bantamweight and bantamweight) 15 times.  He is a unified titlist.  Montiel has KO'ed champions and fought in five countries.  Yet his profile might be as low as that of any great North American fighter.

    Montiel's last loss was in 2006 to Golden Boy-staple Jhonny Gonzalez.  It was a split decision loss in an ugly fight.  After that HBO performance he was expelled from the bright lights of American media companies, fighting in the Philippines, some of the smaller outposts in Mexico and Japan before he was summoned back to face Nonito Donaire.  Discussing this period, Montiel talks about a style change that has endeared him to the boxing fashionistas again. 

    In the press conference leading up to the fight with Donaire, he said, "I changed my style and became more aggressive.  I wanted to give people a better show -- a better fight.  I think I have done that.  My style is better and it has shown in my fights."

    Montiel's mindset might be different after the Gonzalez fight.  The stats don't necessarily back him up.  He has a career knockout percentage of 70%.  After the Gonzalez fight, the knockout percentage is still 70%.  However, perhaps bonus points should be given in that over the last five years he has knocked out a higher caliber of fighters.  Perhaps his more aggressive attitude has enabled him to look for knockouts more.  Perhaps it's just boxer talk. 

    Surely, Montiel has been building momentum with his knockouts over former titlist Martin Castillo and WBC bantamweight titleholder Hozumi Hasegawa.  With his fight against Donaire, where Montiel is the underdog, Fernando's knockout power is looked at as his best chance of winning the fight.

    If Montiel is going to make a true name for himself in the public's consciousness, he better start now.  Tim Austin was done as a major prizefighter by 32.  Too Sharp Johnson was done by 33.  The wars with Israel Vazquez ended Rafael Marquez's elite status at 32 or 33.  Montiel is going to be 32 next month.  For fighters at this weight, there is not much of a career left.  If he is able to land his Sunday punch on Donaire, he has a few fights left to capitalize on his new status.  If he is not, one of the best fighters of the last decade will return to the one constant and strange best friend he has known his whole career: obscurity.
      



    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Maidana-Morales Should Make 7 Fighters Happy

    Golden Boy has really done well by seven of its fighters in the Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales pay per view card.  If you examine the April 9 card, the four fights may not be the most scintillating card for fight fans (although Katsidis-Guerrero should be great), but the card will be great for the future positioning of Golden Boy and its the seven fighters on the card.  Here's a run down of each fight and what winning could mean for each fighter and Golden Boy.

    Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales  Let's face it.  Maidana is the biggest badass in all of boxing.  Any fight that he is in is worth watching.  After a grueling fight with Amir Khan, this is the type of live but overmatched opponent that he needs.  With a win, Maidana stays in the American consciousness and is ready for some of the larger fish later in 2011.  Erik Morales is still a name.  If Morales somehow wins or even looks good in a loss, he plants himself knee deep in the best division in boxing.  With his name and reputation for good fights,  Morales sets himself up and Golden Boy for another big payday.

    Michael Katsidis-Robert Guerrero  This fight is HBO worthy in it of itself.  The key here is Guerrero.  Is he ready for war?  If so, this could be the signature fight that Guerrero's career has lacked to date.  Guerrero has the skills to win  and set himself for even bigger fights.  Katsidis has a winnable fight as well.  By imposing his will on a fighter whose mental toughness has been challenged in the past (remember Guerrero's bizarre behavior in the Daud Yordan fight), Katsidis can go for the stoppage.  Already TV friendly, this win gives him the ability to start calling out some of the bigger names at 135-140. 

    Winky Wright-Matthew Macklin  This fight is the classic "let's see what we have here" fight.  Macklin just signed an agreement with Golden Boy.  With Wright as an opponent, there is no risk that he will be knocked out or badly hurt.  This fight will also get Macklin seen by the HBO brass -- perhaps the most important point of them all.  Wright, coming off another long layoff, is essentially the trial horse with upside.  If he beats Macklin, he once again becomes a name in the forever barren Middleweight division.  There are all sorts of people out there with more talent than name recognition in that division.  Wright could help be a B-side to half a dozen of them if he wins.

    James Kirkland-TBA  Kirkland was about two fights away from becoming a major star before he was incarcerated.  This fight is another opportunity for HBO and Golden Boy to see how far away Kirkland is from being a Saturday Night boxer again. 

    Golden Boy has put together a great card for its fighters.  Although some fans might complain about the escalating number of pay-per-views, no one is forcing them to buy anything.  The Katsidis-Guerrero fight and the chance for Maidana to knock out anyone should make it worth watching.   In the meantime, their fighters can stay busy, look good and prepare for bigger fights later in the year.   

    There will be many times when SNB will criticize Golden Boy.  This won't be one of them.

    Elite and Rising Fighters

    Saturday Night Boxing introduces a new ongoing feature with the publishing of its SNB Elite Fighters and SNB 10 Boxers on the Rise lists.  The lists can be found on the left-hand side of SNB and will change as boxing results dictate.   

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    International Blog of Mystery

    Saturday Night Boxing received its first international pageview today.  SNB--now a boxing blog with international reach.  :)

    Frank Warren and Golden Boy

    Frank Warren has done a great job rebuilding his stable.  After the defections of Ricky Hatton, Joe Cazaghe and Amir Khan to Golden Boy, Warren was left without a showhorse.  He may have a few now: 
     http://www.frankwarren.tv/index.php/photos/current-fighters.html
    With the recent signing of John Murray, he now has Murray, Nathan Cleverly (just announced to fight for a light heavyweight title), Ricky Burns, Kevin Mitchell, James DeGale and Kell Brook.  Several of these young and promising fighters are on their way to becoming prime time attractions.  Hopefully a few could be encouraged to cross the pond.  Warren stages big events in throughout the U.K. and is the only successful promoter to build consistent U.K. pay-per-view and premium network attractions.

    Golden Boy seems to have many of the institutional advatages in the U.S.  They have an output deal with HBO, and exclusive agreement with many AEG facilities and their own dedicated TV pipeline to build up their younger names.  Yet looking at the enourmous Golden Boy roster:
     http://www.goldenboypromotions.com/fighters/, there are not tons of stars.  Hopkins is in his winter.  Mosley left to fight Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez is rumored to follow Mosley out the door.  Katsidis is a great television fighter while Haye and John are only Golden Boy fighters when they fight in the U.S.  This leaves Golden Boy with the exciting Argentine duo of Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse, the enigma of Robert Guerrero, two genuine stars in Saul Alvarez and Amir Khan some curiosities with Seth Mitchell, James Kirkland and Peter Quillen, some possible reclamation projects (Victor Ortiz and Daniel Jacobs) and a bunch of kids. 

    Looking over those two lists and my money would be on Warren over the next few years.  Now Golden Boy could continue to be the poaching kings and add to their stable (they recently went back to the Warren fairgrounds for Matthew Macklin), but for a company as large as they are, their immediate prospects don't look as interesting as Warren's do.  I expect to see many matchups between the two promotional outfits in the coming years.  As Golden Boy and Top Rank continue to avoid fighting each other in the ring, there needs to be other outlets for their fighters. 

    For Warren, nothing would be better than some sweet revenge.  If he couldn't beat Golden Boy outside of the ring before he has a chance to beat them in the ring now.  I hope he can put his past grievances aside and match his fighters against Golden Boy.  I think they would do quite well.

    Facebook Page

    Saturday Night Boxing is now up on Facebook.  Become a fan now.  http://www.facebook.com/pages/edit/?id=188823601138168&sk=picture#!/pages/Saturday-Night-Boxing/188823601138168

    Hoping for the New Pavlik

    Kelly Pavlik is due to make his return from alcohol rehabiliation treatment in the spring.  Although he has a big name and had some memorable victories (Jermain Taylor and Edison Miranda), he clearly stagnated as a fighter.  Having seen Pavlik live on a number of occasions and on TV on many others, it is clear that Kelly needs to add to his arsenal.  He is still is a two-punch fighter -- jab and right hand.  He is off balance when he throws his left hook and he actually jumps in when he throws a left uppercut.  I have yet to see a right uppercut  He also is still a straight-line come forward fighter that can really only fight in that one style.  If Kelly is serious about his career, he must need a new trainer.  Jack Loew has taught him many things -- how to be an agressive, offensive fighter, how to dominate with a good jab and how to finish.  These are not insignificant elements.  But at the top levels, Kelly must do more.  If he doesn't change his team, he will never be elite.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Mythical Fight

    I am on record saying that Floyd Mayweather will beat Manny Pacquiao.  As much fun as it is to root for Manny, he gets hit a lot these days.  One constant with Mayweather is that he doesn't get hit.  I see this fight very simply.  Mayweather took some hellacious shots from Shane Mosely and some good shots from Zab Judah.  His chin is his most underrated part of his arsenal.  Floyd doesn't get hit a lot and when he does he takes it well.    I don't think an uppercut can be thrown that doesn't hit Manny.

    Cloudy Future for Cloud?

    I'm very excited to read that Hopkins-Pascal II is going to be happening immediately.  However, I think it would be much more interesting if Chad Dawson were to fight Tavoris Cloud than the proposed fights of Diaconu or Andrade.  I understand that we can only hope for so much.  Ultimately, Dawson needs some work with Emmanuel Steward.  Andrade would be the perfect fight in that context in that he's a one-dimensional pressure fighter that doesn't have the offensive arsenal to give Dawson too much to worry about in terms of defense.  Dawson could fight (and win!) against guys like that in his sleep.   I'm looking to see more instances where Dawson stays in the pocket and sits down on his punches.  Andrade won't be too hard to find.  However, something that Steward cannot teach is a killer instinct.  Dawson, like Paul Williams and Devon Alexander, is not a finisher.  He is content to win rounds.  It is that area that will ultimately preclude Dawson from joining the upper echelon of fighters.

    Poor Tavoris!  For my money he is the most exciting fighter in the division.  I'm not sure any top-10 guy really wants to fight him.  He already has the title belt yet you don't see guys calling him out on the boxing web sites.  Hopkins cited Pascal, Dawson and Bute as his final three dream fights.  Dawson has already avoided Cloud.  Unfortunately for Tavoris, Don King doesn't really have anyone of worth to fight him in the neighboring weight clsses.  This is going to be tough going for Cloud.  I'm not sure I would pick any current 175 pounder to beat him. 

    Greetings

    Greetings to fight fans out there.  I wanted to have an outlet for my take on boxing.  This blog will conver some of the major (HBO and Showtime) fights that are out there as well as some of the intrigue which is in the sport.  I'm excited about getting started.  I hope you enjoy.