Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Froch, Broner, Viloria

Carl Froch demolished Yusaf Mack in three rounds on Saturday. Mack, a chinny, former light heavyweight, moved down to super middleweight for this fight and was an enormous underdog. The thought was that Mack, who often starts out strong, could give Froch some competitive rounds early before his inevitable demise.

Froch was having none of that, dropping Mack with a sharp right hand in the first round and knocking him out with a vicious left hook to the body in the third. It was the second consecutive dominant performance for Froch, who destroyed Lucian Bute earlier in the year.

Mack fell into the classic trap against Froch by trying to counter him. To beat Froch, like Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward did, you have to be first. Although Froch can be countered, those shots aren't enough to thwart him. When a fighter permits Froch to set his own pace and tempo, that fighter will be in a lot of trouble.

Froch executed his typical offensive blueprint but he also featured a new wrinkle. He rushed in with his patented, odd-angled four and five-shot combinations. In addition, he displayed a newfound comfort level in the pocket and worked nicely off of his jab.

Although I don't think that Froch could ever beat Ward in a rematch, a second fight against Kessler would be very winnable for him. Froch has learned a lot from the Super Six tournament and I think that his belief in his abilities, power and conditioning is at an all-time high. In my book, the Froch who beat Bute can get past Kessler.


The fifth round of Saturday's Adrien Broner-Antonio DeMarco fight signaled the arrival of Broner as a force to be reckoned with in the sport. Until that point, Broner had been just another young fighter with the good fortune of being aligned with manager Al Haymon. Broner had been hyped a lot by HBO and Golden Boy, but his overall poor level of competition and his listless performance against his best opponent to date (Daniel Ponce de Leon) left a number of lingering questions regarding his ultimate ceiling in boxing.

But in the fifth, those questions became irrelevant. Broner took the fight right to the lightweight titlist and crushed him with a spellbinding display of power punches at close range. Slouching over, almost directly into DeMarco's body, Broner fired left hooks, straight right hands and left and right uppercuts that repeatedly shook DeMarco to his foundation. In addition, Broner stayed right in the pocket when DeMarco fired back; he didn't suddenly get skittish about exchanges and move around the ring. The hard-hitting DeMarco had no answers for Broner's pressure, accuracy and power. That essentially was the fight. The eventual knockout came in the eighth round, but by the point, the conclusion of the fight was just a formality.

I learned two things about Broner on Saturday. First, Broner has a lot of confidence in his chin. A boxer doesn't go to war unless he has self-belief in his defense and beard. Not only was Broner unconcerned about DeMarco's power, he literally walked through his shots. Although Broner is young (23) and relatively inexperienced as a professional (25-0), his performance showed that he had learned a lot in his gym wars. He didn't shirk from close combat against DeMarco because he had fought sparring partners with that style. At some point during his development, Broner had been hit with real shots, and those experiences didn't spook him. These are important things to find out about a young fighter.

Second, although Broner has often been compared to Floyd Mayweather, it's clear that the two are very different fighters. On the surface, there are a number of similarities. Both feature the shell defense with the left shoulder held up high and the chin tucked in tightly. Both use the shoulder roll as a defensive technique and look to counterpunch to initiate their offense. They also gradually unleash their arsenals and combinations as the rounds progress in their fights.

However, there are important differences – mostly, questions of temperament. Mayweather seems personally offended when he gets hit. He regards it as a sense of failure. Although he has a good chin and has been clipped by some solid shots, he minimizes incoming fire as much as possible. Mayweather tries to reduce an opponent's output by defensive positioning and pinpoint counters. Broner appears to be more game for two-way action and he enjoys mixing it up. He's seeking knockouts and if he has to take some shots to get there, so be it. Mayweather believes in domination by hitting and not getting hit in return.

This is not a commentary on which approach is sounder. Fighters with various styles can become elite. Mayweather has ascended to the top of the sport with his defensive style while Broner sees himself rising with a more aggressive approach to boxing. Ultimately, time will tell how good Broner really is, but it's apparent that he's carving out his own path in the fight game.

I don't see anyone beating Broner at lightweight. His power shots will be too much for Ricky Burns and his accuracy and hard counters will give Miguel Vazquez fits. At junior welterweight, Broner may finally meet his match, against the hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse or the kamikaze pressure fighting of Brandon Rios (Broner is with Golden Boy and Rios is with Top Rank; most likely, that fight doesn't get made). Until Broner moves up in weight, it should be smooth sailing for the foreseeable future.


And now, time for a quote: "Am I alone in thinking that Johnathon Banks has a chance for an early KO against Seth Mitchell? I wouldn't favor Banks, but I'm intrigued."

–Adam Abramowitz, Nov. 14

So let's not say that I called Banks' second-round knockout of Seth Mitchell 100%. There was certainly a hedge in that tweet. But I know what I saw coming into the fight. I witnessed Seth Mitchell in his last bout getting rocked by Chazz Witherspoon, a decent puncher who lacked the experience or agility to finish Mitchell. In addition, I knew that Banks had recently lost his mentor, Emanuel Steward, and that he replaced him as Wladimir Klitschko's trainer for last weekend's fight against Mariusz Wach. Klitschko turned in a tremendous performance and it was clear that Banks and Klitschko had used their recent loss as a rallying cry. I thought that Banks would bring the same type of urgency into the fight against Mitchell that Klitschko did in his outing against Wach.

The intangibles were on Banks' side but I still thought that Mitchell would be able to survive Banks' early success and win the fight in the later rounds. Mitchell, another one of the aforementioned Haymon fighters, had been touted as the premier American heavyweight prospect, but on Saturday, he wound up being knocked out by a journeyman who had achieved his best success at cruiserweight.

In my estimation of the fight, I didn't account for two things: (1.) Mitchell really can't take a punch. (2.) Banks would be able to capitalize on his opportunity to go for the kill. Witherspoon had heavy hands and he caught Mitchell with a shot; that happens. But Banks didn't really have the same type of power that Witherspoon did. In addition, Banks often fought very methodically and had problems letting his hands go. And while I saw risk for Mitchell in this fight, I didn't see the exact parallels between Banks and Witherspoon to pick Banks outright to win. However, what Banks lacked in natural power, he made up with in accuracy and experience.

Banks fought with a combination of urgency and discipline to get the knockout. One punch changed the fight. Mitchell reached in with a right hand in the opening moments of the second round and Banks landed a cuffing left hook on top right side of his temple. Banks then followed with a short right hand and Mitchell was on the canvas. He never recovered. Banks scored two more knockdowns in the round and referee Eddie Cotton waived off the fight.

It was a stirring performance from Banks, who figures to set himself up for a meaningful fight or two in 2013. Although, he doesn't profile as a classic power puncher, he used his intelligence, experience and accuracy to best a more athletic yet greener foe. Here, the thousands of hours of fighting and sparring under Steward's watch really paid off. Banks kept his distance beautifully in the second round and didn't allow Mitchell to tie up. He also stayed aggressive but didn't punch himself out. It was a masterful performance on how to hurt and finish off a fighter.

Mitchell has a lot of athletic skills and real offensive talent. Unfortunately, defense is a big part of boxing. I don't blame Golden Boy for putting Mitchell in against Banks; Banks was not known as a power puncher and he figured to give Mitchell some needed competitive rounds. Eventually Golden Boy needed to find out about Mitchell's chin; ultimately they learned about it much sooner than I'm sure they had expected, but hey, that's boxing. Prospects get moved. Some pan out and some don't. Mitchell may yet learn how to buy time in the ring once he's hurt but his inability to take and recover from shots is distressing. It's not a good characteristic to have in any division, let alone the one that features the Klitschkos.


Almost three years ago, Brian Viloria's career seemed to be winding down. The 2000 U.S. Olympian had won and lost his light flyweight title twice and his early 2010 knockout loss to unheralded Carlos Tamara perhaps signaled the end of his run as a top fighter in the lower weight classes. If his career ended at that point, it wouldn't have been regarded as a disappointment. He was a distinguished amateur and professional and had a wonderful knockout win over Ulises Solis.

However, a strange thing happened on Viloria's road to irrelevancy; he got better. He moved back up to flyweight, took training more seriously and started beating some really good fighters. In an impressive run over the last 12 months, he knocked out Giovani Segura, one of the beasts of the lower weights, and Omar Nino (Romero), his longtime nemesis who beat him in 2006 and drew with him later in the year.

On Saturday, he faced heavy-hitting Hernan "Tyson" Marquez, a southpaw flyweight titleholder who had never met a firefight he didn't like. Marquez had been on his own run since 2010 and the bout figured to feature tons of fireworks; it didn't disappoint.

Viloria and trainer Marvin Somodio had an excellent game plan: be first and get in and out with quick combinations, especially power shots to the body. They also saw that Marquez's wide hooks could be countered.

In the first round, Viloria did a masterful job of establishing his jab and left hook to the body. Later in the round, he followed the left hook with a short right hand to the head which dropped Marquez.

Throughout the early rounds, Viloria darted in and out and had success with his hook, straight right to the body (thrown underhanded) and a more traditional right uppercut to the body. Viloria's hand speed advantage was significant. Although Marquez tried to unload his power shots, he couldn't get off enough.

The fight's most exciting round occurred in the fifth, when Marquez was able to hurt Viloria with a straight left hand. Marquez's follow-on onslaught drove Viloria across the ring and back onto the ropes. Marquez had a good 30 seconds of unloading his entire offensive arsenal without Viloria returning fire.

Wealth TV's broadcaster, heavyweight icon Larry Holmes, astutely pointed out that Marquez was potentially punching himself out. A lot of Marquez's shots were arm punches and they missed their mark. He substituted quality punches for quantity. In a few brief seconds, Holmes' proclamation was proven to be prescient, as Viloria landed a bracing counter shot from along the ropes. By the end of the round, Marquez was back on the canvas in what was one of the most thrilling rounds of the year.

As the fight continued, Viloria went into Nonito Donaire mode; he was trying to set traps to knock Marquez out. He let Marquez stalk him and open up more. Viloria was still getting the better of these rounds but Marquez was having his moments with his straight left hand and right and left hooks along the ropes. Viloria did flash some wonderful defensive moves in these rounds, especially in the seventh and ninth rounds, where he used upper body movement to avoid four and five-punch combinations.

Marquez had a nice ninth round but I believe that his success was mostly fool's gold. Viloria and Somodio made a tactical adjustment to let Marquez lead. They were waiting to land that big counterpunch. It wasn't as if Viloria gassed himself and was suddenly outgunned; he still connected with some quality shots. Marquez did take the ninth, but just barely.

In the tenth round, the tactical switch paid off beautifully. Marquez backed up Viloria to the ropes and Viloria landed a perfect counter left hook to the chin. Marquez crumbled to the ground. He beat the count but was in bad shape. Viloria rushed him with power shots and trainer Robert Garcia waved the towel shortly thereafter.

For Viloria, this was the highest profile win of his career. Fighting in Los Angeles and on a national broadcast, he displayed the skills and determination of an elite talent. What I saw was a fighter who trusted his conditioning in the ring, fought with confidence and made crucial tactical adjustments.

Perhaps much of Viloria's recent success could be attributed to his return to flyweight, where his legs and power seem stronger than they had been at 108. However, this recent success has also been the result of his rededication to the sport and his ability to block out external distractions. Not all boxers mature at the same time and at an age where most smaller fighters start to break down (he'll be 32 this week), Viloria's now at his best.

The logical big fight for Viloria would be a showdown against light flyweight champ Roman Gonzalez, who had an impressive victory on the undercard. That fight would have significant pound-for-pound implications within the sport and it could conceivably be picked up by one of the major U.S. networks. It would be a hell of a fight. It's unclear if Gonzalez wants to move up in weight at this point but it's a matchup in which both fighters have expressed interest. For now, Viloria needs to stay focused in and out of the ring and build off of his recent run. To beat Gonzalez, he'll need to be at the top of his game.

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