Thursday, November 29, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Guerrero-Berto, Hatton-Senchenko

Robert Guerrero found one way to neutralize Andre Berto's counter right hand; get so damn close to Berto that he couldn't even throw it. In a surprise to many in the boxing world, Guerrero took the fight to Berto over 12 bracing, vicious rounds to earn a unanimous decision. Although Guerrero was certainly a trendy pick for some going into the fight, the thought was that he would win with his boxing ability, throwing quick combinations from the center of the ring. No one foresaw Guerrero mauling Berto along the ropes for 12 rounds. It turned out to be a winning strategy and one which Guerrero deserves much credit for executing.
 
Clearly, Guerrero and his father and trainer, Ruben, studied Victor Ortiz's fight with Berto, where Ortiz overwhelmed and outslugged Berto over 12 rounds. What they probably saw from that match was a fighter (Berto) who couldn't put enough punches together and had problems being effective at close range.
 
Although Guerrero hadn't demonstrated many examples of top inside fighting throughout his career, he certainly showed that he was a quick study. With his straight left hands and his newfound physicality at welterweight, Guerrero constantly drove Berto back to the ropes. In the first round, he scored a knockdown with a straight left hand. (There was holding and hitting involved. In theory, a ref could have deducted a point or discounted the knockdown.) In the second, Berto went down again on an accumulation of blows.
 
The match was conducted mostly in the trenches. Guerrero constantly moved his hands, connecting with his right hook, straight left hand and left uppercut. Berto was reduced to throwing only uppercuts and chopping right hands. The fight was a foul-filled affair with Guerrero holding and hitting and Berto wrapping up excessively (which included some well-executed headlocks) and throwing rabbit punches. Referee Lou Moret had very little control of the fight.
 
Berto was certainly overwhelmed early but he started to get back into the fight with some picture-perfect right uppercuts and clubbing right hands.
 
As the match progressed, both fighters looked worse for wear. Both of Berto's eyes started to swell shut while Guerrero complained of vision problems from the power punches that he had received. Perhaps the reason that they stuck so close to each other, and along the ropes, was that they couldn't see shots coming, and the ropes helped with possible depth perception/ring awareness issues.
 
The rounds in the fight’s last half followed a similar pattern. Guerrero threw and landed more and was the effective aggressor, while Berto connected with some solid uppercuts and right hands. Ultimately, Berto just wasn't busy enough to win a majority of these rounds.

The action was sustained and fierce throughout the match. After the final bell sounded, the fighters still went after each other. Somehow, a California State Athletic Commission official was able to separate the two before Lou Moret got there (as I said, Moret didn't have a good night).
 
Guerrero swept the cards with identical 116-110 scores, or eight rounds to four, with two points off of Berto's count for the knockdowns. (I also scored it 116-110). It was a career-best victory for Guerrero and he proved to the boxing world that he had the skills, chin and, most importantly, the temperament to take on the best welterweights in the world. It was a special effort from Guerrero and his confidence with his inside fighting and his beard creates new difficulties in how to game plan for his attack.
 
Potentially, there were other ways for Guerrero to defeat Berto, but this one, the most savage and satisfying, left no doubts at the end of the fight. Ultimately, Guerrero's success reflected his supreme belief in his chin and conditioning.
 
But Guerrero did get hit way too often for my liking. True, he did tie up and angle his body to a degree; however, he showed no effort to get out of the way of punches. It was a very dangerous game that he played (and won) but if he fights like this in the future, it will provide opportunities for counterpunchers or volume punchers to land at will.
 
Although Berto took quite a beating, he did perform more ably than he did against Ortiz. On Saturday, he fought hard the entire match and didn't use the final few rounds to merely survive. He threw some great uppercuts and scored well with his cuffing right hands. At points in the bout, he had some sustained success fighting off of the ropes. He also was in excellent condition. Physically or mentally, he could have folded after the first few rounds of the fight, but he persevered to give himself a chance to win.
 
Ultimately, Berto just didn't move his hands enough. He got outthrown 731-411, not even 35 attempted punches a round for Berto, an outright terrible number for a welterweight.
 
To my eyes, Berto has fallen in love with his power. He waits for those perfect moments to land his power shots, convinced that his best punches will turn the tide of his fights. Berto does have a good knockout percentage of 73%, but keep in mind how mediocre some of his early opposition was. Since moving to 12-round fights, he has only stopped 4 of 9 opponents (44%).
 
In addition, Berto's defense has deteriorated. Always looking to land his own shots, he just eats and eats punches. Berto started the fight on Saturday in the Mayweather shell defensive stance. Ultimately, it didn't matter what posture Berto used because he got hit with everything. The move smacked of a gimmick or a sense of panic and doesn't speak well of Berto or his trainer Tony Morgan's confidence in the fighter's defensive fundamentals. In addition, the timing of the change made little sense. Making radical wholesale changes should be done in a tune-up fight, not against a world-class level opponent.
 
It's clear to me that Berto needs a new trainer. Berto doesn’t make adjustments well during fights. At times, I have liked Morgan's instruction between rounds, but his fighter has plateaued. Gone are the days of the consistent jab, the movement, the boxing ability and, frankly, the confidence. Berto looked lost during large stretches of the fight, where he was unprepared for Guerrero's aggression and just didn't know how to get himself off.
 
Berto's new trainer must have a Come to Jesus moment with him, an intervention where he is told that his power won't be enough to win fights at the world-class level. Berto must realize that he has to incorporate additional facets into his ring performances.
 
Berto had an exponential rise as a prospect, touted by HBO and many media members as a future star. He was matched softly and the hype often outstripped his performances. It's true, Berto toughed out two brutal fights against Ortiz and Guerrero, but they were both losses in winnable matchups. To date, in his biggest opportunities he has come up short.
 
After the fight, Guerrero called out Floyd Mayweather and as preposterous as that matchup would have sounded 12 months ago (Guerrero talked about it then, and it was utterly and absolutely preposterous), I certainly would be fine with the fight now. I don't expect Guerrero to win that matchup but he would certainly make for a suitable opponent. With his size and various offensive dimensions, he'll have the ability to make it interesting.
 
Berto conducted his post-fight interview with HBO's Max Kellerman wearing sunglasses. Instead of letting fans in and giving them something personal and endearing, Berto was too cool for the room. He complained about the ref and begrudgingly gave Guerrero credit. Many fighters revel in their post-fight battles; these are moments to connect with fans. But Berto was far more concerned with looking pretty and pretending that he didn't give a shit. His interview encapsulated why he has always had a chilly reception at the box office. It's beneath him to show vulnerability or unbridled emotion. I wanted to shake him and say, "Andre, the fans want to like you!"
 
On the undercard, rising prospect Keith Thurman demolished veteran spoiler Carlos Quintana, scoring a fourth-round knockout and sending the crafty Puerto Rican into retirement. A spectacular left hook to the liver in the first round dropped Quintana and he barely made the count. He spent the rest of the fight trying to buy time and avoid Thurman’s' power.
 
For Quintana, he had some excellent wins in his day, including ones over Paul Williams and Joel Julio, but he was never able to sustain a successful run. He would win a big one and then lose a big one. Then, he would work his way back. Nevertheless, Quintana made the most out of his limited gifts and he can retire knowing that he was once a world champion. Not too shabby.
 
Thurman's power is his calling card. He's 19-0 with 18 knockouts. He has two real weapons of note. His right hand, which is a pulverizing punch, and his left hook – when he landed that punch in first round, the devastation was an eerie reminder of Miguel Cotto’s left hook that dropped Quintana in 2006.
 
Power is the sexiest quality in boxing but Thurman's team, which includes Al Haymon and Golden Boy, must avoid rushing him too fast to get a title shot. Thurman wildly overcommits to his power shots and often gets himself out of position. In addition, when throwing his right hand, he drops his left. He'll also stalk fighters around the ring with both hands only as high as his shoulders. If this sounds like a recipe for getting knocked out, you're right. Thurman and his excellent trainer, Dan Birmingham, still have things to work on in the gym. He's an exciting young fighter, but it will be much more rewarding to see him challenge for a championship belt at the end of 2014 than at the end of 2013.
 
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Ricky Hatton returned to the ring after a three-and-a-half year layoff in front of his adoring home crowd in Manchester. Instead of taking a predictable tune-up fight for his comeback, he chose Vyacheslav Senchenko, a former world titleholder from the Ukraine.
 
Hatton started the fight off fairly well. After a few close rounds, he had some sustained success in the third round with his left hook. In the next few rounds of the fight, he did vintage Hatton things: mauling his opponent, connecting to whatever part of the body was available and backing his opponent up along the ropes. He was moving well and if his accuracy wasn't great, he wasn't embarrassing himself.
 
By the seventh round, he began to fade. Senchenko, who started the fight tentatively, gradually let his hands go with more frequency. He scored with his jab, straight right hand and left hook. He wasn’t dominating but he was getting the better of the action. In the ninth round of the scheduled ten-round affair, he unleashed a wicked left hook to the body and Hatton crumbled to the canvas; he never made it back up.
 
At the time of the stoppage, Hatton was up on all three scorecards (I had Senchenko winning 87-85). Ultimately, Hatton's body betrayed him. The inactivity and years of self-abuse outside of the ring had finally caught up with him.
 
For Senchenko, it was a mixed performance. Although the veteran can certainly handle himself in the ring, his loss earlier this year to Paulie Malignaggi suggests a fighter with some real limitations. Already 35, Senchenko possesses a good jab and a decent arsenal of punches but he doesn't react well to getting hit and he clearly had a problem with Malignaggi's hand speed and Hatton's aggression. Saturday's knockout was an excellent one, but it doesn't portend great things in Senchenko's future. In the minds of the judges, he lost a majority of rounds to a guy that had been out of the ring for 40 months. That doesn't sound like a stock you want to buy.
 
Typical of Hatton, he provided a wonderful post-fight interview after the loss. As opposed to Berto, who had given off the impression that losing the fight to Guerrero was as devastating to him as forgetting to set his DVR, Hatton let the emotions flow. The feelings of regret and disappointment were emblazoned on his face. Hatton wanted the win so badly. The loss hurt him personally. And the feeling that his boxing career would now finally conclude whipsawed him to a level of sheer nakedness. Here was raw vulnerability. There were tears and they were the markings of a man who grasped the awesome connection that a fighter has with his fans. Their pain was his pain and vice-versa. It was an unforgettable moment.
 
For Hatton, who struggled with substance abuse and thoughts of suicide during his initial retirement, his comeback was a chance to reestablish his self-worth and purge destructive forces from his life. That he lost surely will be a tough pill for him to swallow, but hopefully, he will be able to find some semblance of inner peace (he immediately went back into retirement after the loss).
 
Hatton made so many vital contributions to boxing's health and well-being. He helped reestablish British boxing after a lull. He created a legion of fans that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have gravitated to the sport. He also bridged boxing worlds, taking his fans on road shows in the U.S. and picking up more admirers along the way. He might not have won his biggest fights, but he gave it his all. He was as authentic an athlete as we've had in these times.
 
On the undercard, fast-rising junior featherweight Scott Quigg stopped former title challenger Rendall Munroe in six rounds. Quigg, who is promoted by Hatton's company, put forth his best outing as a professional. Exhibiting poise, great technique and a crunching body assault, Quigg outshone Munroe throughout the entire match. He reminded me of featherweight contender Mikey Garcia. Both fighters are economical with their punches but they unload with great combinations and have real power. Quigg landed a debilitating left hook to the liver in the sixth round for his first knockdown. He followed up later in the round with a right hand that ended things for good.
 
For a young fighter (24), Quigg is very disciplined and has an excellent understanding of what he wants to accomplish in the ring. An obvious matchup for him would be rising attraction Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland. Although the two boxers are in different promotional stables (Frampton is with Matchroom), this potential clash is definitely being pushed by the British media and fight fans. It's an interesting one to consider. Frampton is the flashier offensive talent with quick hands and explosive power. Quigg is more workmanlike, accurate and defensively responsible (although he was dropped earlier this year by Jamie Arthur). Personally, I'd like to see the matchup happen in another year or so, when it would have more importance in the sport and provide better paydays for the fighters. However, if the powers that be deem that this clash needs to happen in early 2013, I know that I'll be watching.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Berto-Guerrero: Keys to the Fight


An unexpected welterweight showdown takes place on Saturday when Andre Berto returns to the ring (28-1, 22 KOs) against Robert Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KOs) at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California. Earlier this year, Berto tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and was expected to be suspended for a lengthy period of time. However, the California State Athletic Commission granted him a boxing license and he has been allowed to resume his career. Guerrero was targeting a match against welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley, but that fight never materialized.

HBO stepped up to the plate and offered princely sums for Berto and Guerrero to face each other. It's not a fight that the boxing public was clamoring for but it's a very intriguing matchup between two skilled fighters with designs on marching towards the top of the welterweight division. Read below for my keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the piece. 

1. Can Berto land his counter right hand?

Earlier in his career, Berto was a versatile boxer-puncher and employed numerous styles in the ring. Against the rugged, but limited, Juan Urango, Berto boxed beautifully and used movement and ring generalship to secure an easy victory. Facing Carlos Quintana (who fights on the undercard of this match against Keith Thurman), Berto imposed his size and physicality to dominate. Most recently, against Victor Ortiz and Jan Zaveck, Berto has been a stationary counterpunching sharpshooter, staying in the pocket and looking for opportunities to turn the fight with one punch.

Make no mistake; Berto's power is real but the results of his most recent ring incarnation have been mixed. Yes, he dropped Victor Ortiz twice and he busted up Zaveck's face for a TKO win. However, Ortiz was the more aggressive fighter in their matchup and outslugged Berto for the victory. In addition, Zaveck was having a lot of success landing his jab and short shots before his cut could no longer be contained.

Against Guerrero, Berto faces a busy and athletic opponent. Guerrero doesn't run but he's a very intelligent fighter who uses angles well. Guerrero throws a ton of punches (often over 80 a round) but doesn't square up often when throwing combinations or exchanging with an opponent. He'll be looking for Berto's right hand and will move to his right to avoid it.

The best opportunity for Berto to connect with his counter right is directly after a Guerrero flurry. Guerrero has a bad habit of standing in no-man's land after exchanges. He can admire his work too much, remaining in the pocket without throwing punches, and sometimes he fails to get out of range after scoring with a combination. These are the moments where Berto will have his best chance of succeeding with his money punch.

This is a glass half-full/half-empty scenario for Berto. In his favor, he's always looking for that perfect moment to land his counter right hand; however, he'll eat a lot of shots waiting for that opportunity. Berto's less concerned about defense – to his detriment – than throwing bombs.

2. How does Guerrero take Berto's best punch?

This is the essential question of the fight. Guerrero's chin can be dented. He was dropped by an old Joel Casamayor and he should have officially been knocked down by Michael Katsidis (the punch was incorrectly ruled a slip). In both of those contests, Guerrero fought between 134 and 138 lbs. Against Berto, he'll be at the 147-lb. welterweight limit. In theory, Berto should be able to cause a lot of damage against a fighter who couldn't stay on his feet at lightweight. However, it's also possible that Guerrero has grown into his body and that he's finally fighting at his best weight. You'll notice that in the last three years Guerrero has shot up from junior lightweight all the way to welterweight. He used to have a very lanky frame; perhaps now, at 147, he's in his physical comfort zone.

Guerrero's one fight at welterweight was a mixed bag. He did thrive against a heavy-handed opponent, Selcuk Aydin. However, Aydin didn't land that often and when he did, it was only one punch at a time. Guerrero never went down but he was visibly bothered by Aydin's right hands at a few points in the fight. In short, the jury is still out on whether Guerrero's chin can hold up at welterweight against a top puncher.

3. What if Berto's counter right hand isn't enough?

This is where Berto's in trouble. Guerrero piles up points. Employing a full arsenal of punches, Guerrero is an aggressive fighter who scores very well with judges because of his high activity level and accurate combinations. It's very easy to see scenarios where Guerrero doubles Berto's punch output in certain rounds, especially early in the fight. For Berto, he has to score with his power shots to win rounds. If he can't cause significant damage with his counter right hands, he'll find himself down on the cards very quickly; he'll have to make up some significant ground.

4. Does Berto have a plan B?

It's no secret that Berto hasn't been particularly nimble in switching up strategies during fights. In his two closest matches, against Luis Collazo and Victor Ortiz, he certainly lost the ring generalship battle. It may seem difficult to get outwitted by Victor Ortiz, but Berto did – a distinction of spectacular dubiousness. Berto's corner has been chaotic during these tough fights. (Berto's head trainer has been Tony Morgan, who has often been accompanied by what seems to be a cast of dozens barking out orders in the vicinity of the corner.) When good instruction is given, Berto often refuses to follow it.

Berto's a headstrong fighter who believes that his power will set him free. Fortunately for him, that's probably the right strategy against Guerrero. He's not going to outbox Guerrero to get a decision. It's not that Berto doesn't have good boxing skills; he certainly has excellent hand speed and a command of a variety of punches. For Berto, it's more of a question of perception. He sees himself as a destroyer. Power punchers don't need to move around the ring; they're not cute. They land bombs.

However, if Berto does fall behind in this fight, there are a couple of things that he could do to work his way back into it. First, he needs to go to the body. Berto is a proud member of the Headhunters Association (Wladimir Klitschko is the president of the organization, now in his third, four-year term). Berto likes to stun his opponents with a single, powerful counterpunch then go to work with letting his hands go. But a left hook to the body against Guerrero would do wonders. If Berto consistently landed that punch, it would weaken Guerrero, reducing his punch output and mobility. That would be a good formula to soften Guerrero up for a later knockout blow.

If down in the fight, Berto would be wise to utilize his entire arsenal. He does have an excellent right uppercut (ask Freddy Hernandez about that). By jabbing more, hooking to the body and throwing some uppercuts, Guerrero will have a much more difficult time defending himself from Berto's power shots. In short, if Berto's counter right hand is the ticket (and it may very well be), landing that shot with maximum effect should be his greatest imperative. One counter right hand in isolation might not do the trick, but putting a hard right hand at the end of combinations would reap his intended benefits. In addition, if Berto can successfully counter with a variety of punches, he will be in much better shape to land his right hand as the fight progresses. He will be far less predictable.

5. What happens in the championship rounds?

I don't regard Guerrero or Berto as particularly strong finishers. Guerrero was knocked down by Casamayor late and certainly gave up some rounds to Aydin and Vicente Escobedo in the last third of those bouts. His punch output does tend to drop later in fights and he features less lateral movement; he's easier to find late. To this point, Berto has gassed in tough fights. Collazo had some of his best moments in the later rounds of their match. Berto became a piƱata in the championship rounds against Ortiz.  

Expect both fighters to fade some towards the end of the fight. How this plays out could be very interesting. Guerrero can be prone to lapses in concentration and can get lazy with some arm punches. Berto has had trouble letting his hands go and has experienced some conditioning problems – his legs can betray him in tough fights. It's very possible that Guerrero could cruise late in the fight because of Berto's sagging energy and activity level. However, maybe this is where Berto can finally break through with power counters as Guerrero's stands more in the pocket.

Prediction:

I see Guerrero jumping out to an early lead. He'll get off first with quick two and three-punch combinations. He'll hit Berto repeatedly with his right hook to the head and body, straight left hand and left uppercut. Guerrero will also befuddle Berto with his movement. Guerrero will use angles and turn Berto throughout the first half of the fight.  

Berto will have his moments, but not enough of them throughout the match. He'll land a few power right hands and will hurt Guerrero. However, I don't think he'll be able to put enough punches together to finish him off. When under duress, Guerrero will use his ring savvy to tie up Berto or move around the ring. It will be a frustrating fight for Berto. With a little more energy and creativity, his desired KO victory could have been there for the taking. Instead, Guerrero, with his higher activity level and solid combination punching, will be the one with his arms raised at the end of the fight.

Robert Guerrero defeats Andre Berto 115-112, or 8 rounds to 4, with Berto scoring a knockdown in defeat.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Klitschko, Mares and Lara


In the eighth round of Saturday's Wladimir Klitschko-Mariusz Wach fight, we saw something very strange; Klitschko was taking risks! After years of tentative performances from the Ukrainian slugger and the obligatory admonishments from Emanuel Steward to let his hands go, Klitschko gunned for the knockout. He peppered Wach with a barrage of power shots, landing at will with his jab/right hand combo and mixing in some crunching left hooks. Klitschko didn't let up after he connected with a few shots or shirk from the action at the first sign of Wach's return fire. He continued to press forward. He wasn't fighting for the win; no, it was for pride.

This was the type of performance that had been lacking throughout much of Klitschko's title reign. He wasn't content to methodically pick apart an opponent at mid-range or paw with his jab waiting for the opportunity to land his right cross. Actually, he was downright frisky in there on Saturday, using movement and agility to fire off combinations and press the action. He also was willing to exchange some. Wach tagged Klitschko at the end of the fifth round with a big right hand and a subsequent flurry. It appeared that Klitschko was hurt by the barrage, but he didn't come out in the sixth round timidly. He continued to shoot his power shots and cause damage. He wasn't spooked. In fact, he seemed fired up.

Perhaps the recent death of Steward motivated Klitschko offensively. Maybe it was Wach's relative immobility. Perhaps Wach's ability to take Klitschko's punches forced Klitschko to dig deeper. Maybe Klitschko finally decided to just have a little fun in the ring. It could be any or all of these things. Ultimately, the result was satisfying – an enjoyable Wlad Klitschko fight, imagine that.

Wach wasn't Klitschko's best opponent of his career but he was game and he kept trying throughout the fight (that immediately disqualifies 75% of Wlad's opponents). It was enjoyable to watch Klitschko in a role other than the Reluctant Knockout Artist. This fight wasn't about Klitschko wearing down an opponent with his jab, holding and grappling; it was two big behemoths mixing it up.

Wach will certainly get more opportunities against some of the bigger names in the heavyweight division. He showed a superhuman chin and a steely determination. He easily lost 11 rounds, but his self-belief was a revelation. He wasn't there to be a patsy or a walkover. He had his moment in the fifth and he tried to finish off Klitschko with all of his might. It didn't happen, but it wasn't for Wach's lack of effort. In terms of technique, he had a decent jab and a sneaky right hand. It's not an arsenal which suggests future greatness, but with his size, poise and determination, he could present problems for a number of top-ten heavyweights. Keep in mind that Wach had such a weak slate of opponents coming into the fight. Unlike so many others, he jumped at the chance to fight Klitschko. He didn't embarrass himself and he came out of the match further ahead in the fight game than he was six months ago. Give kudos to him for making the most of his opportunity.

I don't know where Klitschko goes from here. His dominance has created a landscape barren of any real threats. In time, Price, Pulev or Mitchell could emerge, but that doesn't mean that any of them will fight him. So he'll take the next one on the list, whoever that may be. And if we learned anything from his fight over the weekend, it's that Klitschko might actually be capable of enjoying himself in the ring.

On another note, Jonathon Banks was in the unenviable position of replacing his mentor, Emanuel Steward. Banks was calm in the corner and did a nice job of settling things down immediately after Klitschko was hurt. He did tell Wlad between one of the rounds that he needed to jab to the head and to the body. I laughed out loud when I heard that. The next jab to the body by Wlad will be his first. It was good "corner speak" by Banks but if Steward couldn't get Wlad to go to the body, it would be hard to believe that Banks would have success in turning Klitschko into a body puncher.

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The most thrilling fight of the weekend matched junior featherweight titlist Abner Mares against the bantamweight top dog, Anselmo Moreno. The fight featured brutality, power punching, crafty adjustments and cheap shots. Mares pulled out a wide decision, winning 116-110 (x 2) and 120-106 (more on that atrocious scorecard in a bit), but the match was actually very close.

Before I dissect some of the more displeasuring aspects of the fight, let me start off by saying that I was wrong. Although I scored the fight a draw, 113-113, and would have had Moreno winning if not for Raul Caiz Jr.'s horrid point deduction in the 11th, I expected Moreno to win a lot of rounds against Mares. How many? Nine. Maybe ten.

Mares did a lot of things very well in the fight. He applied relentless pressure throughout the first half. He cut the ring off expertly by using power shots, lateral movement and angles to keep Moreno from getting away. As Moreno tried to escape to his right, away from Mares' right hand, Mares routinely popped him with solid left hooks. In addition, Mares has the right idea about geography. He needed to keep the fight at close range and he hit whatever was available (he might have followed Clemente Medina's game plan a little too literally).

All of this helped Mares. Moreno lacked the quickness and agility to consistently escape and run. In addition, Mares' game plan helped to nullify Moreno's advantages in the center of the ring and at mid-range, where he could have pot-shotted and maneuvered his body for counter opportunities.

With that said, Moreno still had good moments in the early parts of the fight, but they were often just moments – stretches of 30-45 seconds here and there. He landed some excellent shots, specifically his counter left hand, but he looked uncomfortable the whole night. When he went down in the fifth round, it was an utterly shocking moment. Here was this tremendous athlete, with all the foot speed, intelligence and ring savvy, but his legs were reduced to jelly. It was amazing that he survived.

As the fight progressed, Moreno started to have more sustained success. Mares' energy level started to flag after the first half of the fight. Instead of bumrushing Moreno for 2:30 of every round, Mares was now down to 1:15 or 1:30. In addition, Moreno knocked Mares back to the ropes in the 7th and 11th rounds with short left hands. Both times it appeared that he had Mares hurt.

Yet Mares displayed a new wrinkle. He countered extremely well under duress. He did eat some shots but he also landed some savage right hands, uppercuts and left hooks. In those moments, Mares exhibited dimensions which suggest that he is much more than just an excellent pressure fighter. He showed that he could recuperate well after being hurt (he also demonstrated this in the Darchinyan fight). He wisely saved his legs and used his energy to counter, hold and buy time. Although Mares was a less effective fighter when backing up, these adjustments perhaps saved him the match.

Now to the down-and-dirty stuff: It brings me no pleasure to watch the version of Abner Mares who routinely fouls with vicious savagery. Similar to the Agbeko fight, Mares landed dozens of low blows against Moreno. There was also a particularly heinous sequence in the 7th round, where Moreno got turned around with his back facing Mares. Abner paused, looked at Moreno's unprotected back and fired a power shot right at it. Gutless Raul Caiz Jr. warned Mares for the shot, like he did for a number of Mares' low blows, but he failed to take a point. Instead, he deducted a point from Moreno in the 11th for pulling Mares' head down. Moreno did do this, but it was very rich of Caiz Jr. to have taken a point off for this infraction instead of Mares' 30 or so low blows throughout the fight (I actually lost count at 28 at some point during the later rounds).

Mares may be a fine fellow outside of the ring. All indications are that he is. But under the lights, he's a nasty cheap shot artist. With a real referee, he could have lost two fights by now, assuming impartial judging. And don't buy the talk that he's a body puncher and that these things just happen. Yes, punches occasionally and accidentally stray below the belt line, but not dozens of times a fight. Nobody goes to the body more than Leo Santa Cruz, who fought on the undercard of this bout (I'll have more about his performance later). Santa Cruz's punches are savage and crushing, but they are legal. He throws hundreds of body punches a fight, but he's not a dirty fighter; Mares is. I'm sure that these illegal shots were strategic attempts to slow down Joseph Agbeko and Anselmo Moreno. They were damaging blows and swung both fights in my estimation.

Furthermore, it was the height of irony and very revealing when Mares signaled to Caiz Jr. every time Moreno landed a punch close to his belt line. Mares wanted it both ways. He implored Moreno to act like a sportsman, while at the same time he tried to pummel him with practically every tactic imaginable – legal or not. It will take a real referee to keep Mares' fights clean; a task that was beyond Caiz Jr. and Russell Mora (he reffed the Agbeko fight).

In the post-fight interview, Moreno looked like a beaten man, not just physically, but psychologically – make that spiritually. He had never faced a threat like that in his entire career. The fun-loving boxer was reduced to a dour figure. Although it was a close fight (most boxing observers had it anywhere from a 114-112 Moreno win to a 115-111 victory for Mares, more had Mares winning), Moreno did not protest the verdict. For even if he had won the battle, he clearly lost the war.

He fought bravely and showed his true colors in the last quarter of the fight, where I thought he won each round (the 11th was 9-9 because of the point deduction). After enduring rounds of constant pressure and power shots, he continued to let his hands go and fight hard until the final bell. Despite the pounding that he had received, he kept trying to best Mares. In some eyes, he did. To my eyes, Mares only won five rounds of the fight, but those five rounds told the story.

In Dr. James Jen-Kin's eyes, he was seeing marmalade skies, white rooms with black curtains and sugar magnolias. He surely didn't witness the fight in front of him. His 120-106 card was an abomination and if the California State Athletic Commission had any teeth, he'd never work fights in the state again. Although I thought that Marty Denkin and David Sutherland's 116-110 scorecards were a little wide, I certainly think you could've made a case that Mares won eight rounds of the fight. Jen-Kin's card was inexplicable.

Jen-Kin is 76 and has been judging fights long enough to have scored a Salvador Sanchez match. There is no competent explanation for his scorecard. Either suspend him or give him his gold watch, but please, members of the California State Athletic Commission, make sure he's removed from the rotation of able-bodied judges, and do it pronto!

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Speaking of gold watches, it's time for Jerry Roth's. The longtime Vegas judge turned in a poor and deciding 86-85 card in favor of Vanes Martirosyan over Erislandy Lara. The fight was a technical draw, with a cut having opened up on Martirosyan early in the ninth round. Richard Ocasio scored the fight a sensible 87-84 in favor of Lara while Dave Moretti thought the fight was a draw. (I scored the fight 88-84 for Lara).

Roth, at 71, is one of the deans of the Nevada judging pool. However, there is a fine line between wise and sagacious and just being past it. Roth has been on the large stage three times this year with his decisions. He failed in the Lara-Martirosyan fight where Martirosyan had an embarrassingly low amount of actual landed punches after the first three rounds. Roth's most egregious card of the year was his 116-112 score in favor of Brandon Rios over Richard Abril. Roth's 115-113 score for Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley in favor of Pacquiao reflected who should have been the correct winner in the fight, but the card was too close for my liking. His scorecard may have been an overcorrection to the justifiable outrage of his Rios-Abril score. Perhaps if the Pacquiao card was in a vacuum, it wouldn't have been a big deal.

Roth's scorecards have been spotty for many years. He reflexively favors the "aggressor" in close rounds of fights, irrespective of landed punches or other scoring criteria. He typifies some of the worst attributes of the "Vegas School" of judging, which often rewards come-forward fighters over ring generalship, clean punching or defense. There are four criteria that should be used to score fights but Roth and his ilk place way too much emphasis misapplying one criterion at the expense of more legitimate ways to award rounds.

The fight itself was ugly. Martirosyan started energetically and popped Lara with some good straight right hands. His activity level was fine and Lara, as he can, was not overly concerned with actually throwing punches.

In my eyes, the fight changed in the third round, when Lara started to land his straight left hand. As the rounds continued, that punch hit its mark with more frequency. In addition, Lara was doing some fun things on defense, using his legs, head movement and elbows to thwart Martirosyan's offense.

Martirosyan tried hard, but he just wasn't very effective. He's been on HBO twice now and I see no reason why he needs to strike out on the network for a third time (he appeared on HBO in 2010 against Joe Greene). He's a "B" fighter who lacks the power, craft or polish that would make him a compelling figure to watch or follow.

Despite my feeling that Lara comfortably won the fight, he didn't help himself by being so damn inactive throughout long stretches of rounds. He does just enough in his estimation to win rounds and he has clearly overestimated American judges' desires to reward defense or ring generalship. Even though he had been a victim of an egregious robbery against Paul Williams, that experience didn't catalyze him to fight with any additional urgency on Saturday.

Lara's an interesting fighter in that he has the skills to be an elite talent but he lacks the will or focus to dominate opponents. If he had the inclination, he could have wiped Martirosyan out; instead he'll have to settle for the draw on his ledger.

There are many who feel that Lara could beat Saul Alvarez, Golden Boy's ultimate cash cow. Lara has wanted the fight and feels that Golden Boy (who is also his promoter) has steered Alvarez away from him. That may be true but it's hard for Lara to amass a popular outcry on his behalf when he fails to look his best when he has the opportunity to shine. Lara is the ultimate high risk-low reward opponent and if he doesn't perform spectacularly in the ring, there aren't other avenues for him to get a shot at the big names in the sport. Yes, Lara was shafted against Martirosyan, but the bad decision could've been prevented.

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Mikey Garcia scored a spectacular eighth-round knockout against Jonathan Barros with a pulverizing left hook. It was a highlight-reel knockout and it almost erased what was otherwise a listless performance. Garcia is regarded as a surgical and deliberate counterpuncher, but against Barros, he was just deliberate. According to CompuBox, he landed only 21% of his punches and 25% of his power shots. These are terrible percentages for a fighter who throws so few punches. True, Barros percentages were even worse than Garcia's were, but Garcia was the one who entered the ring with the big, shiny, anointed star on his head.

I had the fight scored 77-76 for Garcia coming into the eighth and I had Barros winning rounds five, six and seven. Barros, a former featherweight titleholder from Argentina, didn't have Garcia's hand speed or power, but he had a spectacular game plan and executed it very well. In almost a textbook case of how to beat an economical counterpuncher, he kept his punches compact and fired only two-punch combinations at most. In addition, he kept his left glove up high, just in front of his ear, to neutralize Garcia's straight right hand. Barros used tons of head movement and slight angles to reduce Garcia's clean counterpunching opportunities. Yes, he lost the fight, and lost it spectacularly, but he provided a blueprint for how a certain type of fighter could beat Garcia. Barros was not worn down by Garcia's power or pressure. He just got caught with a shot.

Garcia was originally supposed to face featherweight titlist Orlando Salido but Salido had to pull out with an injury. Perhaps Garcia wasn't able to get up for the replacement fighter (that certainly has happened often in boxing). Fortunately for him, Salido presents a far different style than Barros did. Although Salido has more power, he throws wide shots and opens up frequently on offense. Garcia should have tons of counterpunching opportunities. Although Salido is a superior fighter than Barros, Garcia might fare much better against Salido than he did against the Argentine. Ultimately, the important question is whether Saturday's performance was a warning sign about Garcia's limited ceiling or an example of a fighter failing to get up for a fight.

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Leo Santa Cruz is an uncommon pressure fighter. He has very heavy hands, exceptional balance, superior technique and chilling accuracy. Merely looking at Santa Cruz's knockout percentage (56.5%) does not tell the whole story. In Santa Cruz's last 12 fights, only one has gone the distance. Keep in mind, this run has been accomplished against much better competition than he faced in the formative stages of his career. My eyes and the stats tell me that Santa Cruz is a fighter who continues to improve.

Are there things to still work on? Sure. Santa Cruz still smothers himself on occasion and can fall into stretches where he throws too many arm punches, especially with his straight right hand. Also, like many pressure fighters, he too frequently lets his sturdy chin substitute for solid defensive technique. He gets hit, and often.

Nevertheless, he applied a savage beating on Victor Zaleta over the weekend, dropping him three times, including two knockdowns from body punches. His left hook to the body was punishing and his left and right uppercuts were formidable weapons.

Zaleta lost every round in the fight, but he had his moments, with a number of head-popping straight right hands and uppercuts. Unfortunately, he fought Santa Cruz's fight and wasn't able to withstand that type of close combat.

The bantamweight division features a motley crew of tough, international fighters. Leading the fray is Anselmo Moreno (Panama), who most certainly will come back down to 118. Other contenders are Joseph Agbeko (Ghana), Hugo Ruiz (Mexico), Koki Kameda (Japan), Shinsuke Yamanaka (Japan) and Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (Thailand). Moreno, Agbeko or the winner of Kameda-Ruiz (they fight on Dec. 4) seem like natural plays for Santa Cruz's next step. Among that list, if I were Golden Boy, I would target Agbeko.

Santa Cruz is a wonderful, telegenic pressure fighter who continues to improve. If he can sit down on his punches just a bit more and tighten up his defense, he could be an elite talent. If not, he'll still be one of television's staples for the next decade. Get used to him. He'll be around for a while.

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Robert Helenius returned to the ring on Saturday for the first time in 11 months. When we last saw him, he was getting outworked by Dereck Chisora, but he won a dubious decision. Helenius hurt his right arm during that fight and subsequently had surgery.

In his return, he faced Sherman Williams, a late replacement who had little shot at winning. Helenius easily won 11 rounds but he was unimpressive. His work rate was low, his jab was ineffectual and he fought with little energy or passion. Helenius, from Finland, was a highly-touted heavyweight a year ago, after he had stopped former titlists Siarhei Liakhovich, Sam Peter and Lamon Brewster. These performances were not mere hype, as Helenius defeated these former champions with bracing power shots.

However, there is real worry here. Chisora exposed some real flaws. For starters, Helenius can't deal with pressure fighters. His jab is lazy and he likes to fight at his own measured pace. Perhaps he was able to look so good against those older champions because they were fighting rather deliberately. Liakhovich did go at him fairly hard at the beginning, but he predictably faded. Helenius will have real trouble with heavyweights who have decent work rates and he isn't accurate enough with his shots to be a true counterpuncher. He needs to be first, but he only seems to thrive at a measured pace.

His pop is still real and his physical dimensions – 6'6" and 240 lbs. – are imposing, but he's no sure thing. Yes, there was some ring rust on Saturday and he probably exercised some understandable caution coming back from surgery, but at this point, I think that Helenius has regressed. His confidence isn't there right now and his deliberate pace and inadequate defensive skills do not portend a glorious future. I could be wrong. 


Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam Abramowitz at saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook: