Monday, May 27, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Froch-Kessler II

Trainer and fighter. When the two work in perfect concert like they do with Rob McCracken and Carl Froch, it's wonderful to watch. Breaking down Froch's performance in his unanimous decision win in the rematch against Mikkel Kessler, it's clear that the game plan was to win on volume, exploiting Kessler's judicious nature in throwing punches.

Froch stayed in the pocket almost the whole fight, working behind his jab and mixing in generous amounts of right hands and left hooks. It wasn't so much that Froch beat Kessler to the punch with better hand speed as it was that he threw a lot more, peppering Kessler with shots until the Dane decided to move his hands. When they traded, the fight was essentially even, but because of those huge gaps from Kessler, Froch was able to earn the victory.

The final punch stat results confirm Froch's decided advantage in activity. Froch doubled up Kessler's punch output (1034 to 497) and quadrupled his power punch attempts (668 to 165). Certainly CompuBox, or any punch counting system, has flaws with the way it records landed punches, but with numbers so obviously one-sided from Saturday's fight, the punch stats paint a vivid picture of why Froch was victorious.

When Kessler was more aggressive, there were some beautiful rounds of boxing, specifically the 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th. However, he let Froch take the fight on activity and wouldn't let his hands go enough to have a legitimate case to win the fight.

Froch wasn't just scoring with pitty-pat punches. He had real success with his angled right hands, specifically his right hand behind Kessler's left ear. These shots damaged Kessler and made him reticent to return fire. Kessler did score with his own right hands and left hooks, but Froch took these punches very well and kept coming forward. For the judges, Froch was much busier and he seemed to land the more powerful blows. I had the fight 116-112 for Froch, as did one of the judges, but I have no problem with the other scorecards (118-110 and 115-113) for Froch.

To be outthrown by over 2-1 through 12 rounds and win a fight, you have to either be some sort of defensive master or knock your opponent down a few times. Kessler did neither of those things. True, he demonstrated good defensive technique at many points throughout the fight, ducking and spinning away from Froch's right hands and blocking a lot of his jabs. However, Kessler also got hit with scores of big shots. To butcher a phrase from Jerry Maguire, he didn't help the judges help him. He wasn't busy enough and ceded too much of the ring generalship game to Froch. At 34 and very inactive through the last three years, perhaps Kessler didn't have the stamina to be busy enough to win a grueling 12-round fight. Or, maybe he wasn't willing to take the risks associated with letting his go with more frequency.

Kessler also made the grave mistake of not being first against Froch. When Froch can set up his offense, he throws punches from weird angles and is tricky to time and counter. Although Kessler scored with some solid counter right hands and left hooks, he didn't throw enough of them to blunt Froch's edge in clean punching and effective aggressiveness. Strategically, he gave Froch a huge advantage in the fight by letting him set the pace and tempo. Furthermore, in order to slow Froch down, he needed to clinch and grapple on the inside. Ultimately, Kessler wasn't able to stymie Froch's forward movement or make the fight more uncomfortable. These were opportunities missed.

Rob McCracken is simply one of the best trainers in the business. He develops unique fight plans that tilt competitive matchups in his fighter's favor. Consider how Froch used the ring and engaged in spots against Glen Johnson, the way he boxed from the outside against Abraham, how he lunged in and avoided a pocket facing Bute or how he bested Kessler on volume.

Nobody would argue that Froch is some kind of technical marvel in the ring. His hand speed is adequate, his footwork can sometimes be lumbering, his power is good, not great and he tends to throw more looping than straight shots. Nevertheless, McCracken has taken this flawed fighter to the top-ten of boxers in the entire sport, a tremendous accomplishment. In addition, McCracken has rallied his fighter when down big  to win (Jermain Taylor) and helped him recover from tough losses (Kessler and Andre Ward). In Saturday's fight, he kept reinforcing the need for Froch to stay behind the jab and not make it a war. He knew that volume would be the key to the win, not trying to score a knockout blow.

On the other side of the relationship, Froch deserves praise for his teachability and desire to improve. Instead of settling for self-satisfaction on account of his past accomplishments, Froch has shown that he's a willing pupil. Initially a brawler in the ring, he has demonstrated the willingness and discipline to add new dimensions. No, he doesn't have the best jab in the world. But it was forceful and accurate enough to keep Kessler in a closed box through most of the fight. He understood that the safest place to be against Glen Johnson is anywhere except directly in front of him. He bought into beating Abraham and Kessler on volume and not through a spirited fight to the death.

Ultimately, what this shows is a sense of humility and a respect for his opponents. The great boxers win – think of Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward or Bernard Hopkins. It's not about always looking good. They understand that to beat a good opponent, they have to do specific things to shift the bout in their favor. It's about checking their egos at the door. The greats won't always be able to get the crowd and/or media buzzing on their behalf, and they have accepted that reality. Froch is usually a very entertaining fighter. Sure, he could have gone for broke on Saturday. It's also possible that he could have been knocked out. He fought aggressively but intelligently on Saturday.

Froch's high ring I.Q. is why he is better than the sum of his technical skills. He makes good adjustments in the ring, fight-to fight and round-to round. He listens to his trainer. He understands his limitations. He has the fortitude to take risks against top fighters and enough savvy to know when to pull back and follow the game plan.

On another note, it was wonderful to see a sold-out crowd in London's O2 Arena cheering on a boxer who couldn't even get his fights on English TV a few short years ago. (Saturday's bout was also a pay-per-view in the U.K.) Froch is an excellent example of perseverance in the ring. Similar to Juan Manuel Marquez, who became a boxing star later in his career after the retirement and/or erosion of Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, Froch's popularity in boxing has been belated. He initially came of age during the time of Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe, and he was seen as an afterthought. At the time, he was with a smaller promoter and the British networks and press dismissed him as too crude and unskilled. However, he kept winning and putting forward spirited efforts against excellent opposition. In time, he ascended to the top boxer in England and the fans and media finally warmed to him. Saturday was his opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Everyone was there to see him, and he didn't disappoint.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pound-for-Pound Update 5/26/13

With Carl Froch's unanimous win over Mikkel Kessler last night, he ascends the Saturday Night Boxing SNB Top-20 Rankings. Previously at 13, Froch jumps to 9 in the Rankings. The following fighters all move down a slot: Vitali Klitschko (10), Nonito Donaire (11), Tim Bradley (12) and Roman Gonzalez (13).  The complete SNB Top-20 is below:
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Andre Ward
  3. Juan Manuel Marquez
  4. Sergio Martinez
  5. Manny Pacquiao
  6. Wladimir Klitschko
  7. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  8. Abner Mares
  9. Carl Froch
  10. Vitali Klitschko
  11. Nonito Donaire
  12. Tim Bradley
  13. Roman Gonzalez
  14. Bernard Hopkins
  15. Anselmo Moreno
  16. Daniel Geale
  17. Danny Garcia
  18. Saul Alvarez
  19. Juan Estrada
  20. Takashi Uchiyama
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
Follow Saturday Night Boxing on Facebook:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Froch-Kessler II: Keys to the Fight

Saturday brings the anticipated rematch between Carl Froch (30-2) and Mikkel Kessler (46-2). Kessler won the first fight in Denmark in 2010 by a close, unanimous decision. For the rematch, Froch will play host, with the fight in London's O2 arena. Since their matchup three years ago during the Super Six super middleweight tournament, both fighters have gone in different directions. Froch has continued to fight top competition (losing to Andre Ward but demolishing Lucian Bute) while Kessler has knocked out lesser fighters (Brian Magee, Allan Green).
To the delight of boxing fans around the world, these two champions have decided to face each other again. Does Kessler still have Froch's number three years later? Will Froch's improvement in the ring be enough to take down one of his chief rivals? Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.
1. So, what's new?
In my eyes, both fighters have made several improvements in the ring since their first fight. Kessler has become much more effective with his left hook to the body and he has also incorporated an uppercut. Although Kessler has always been a skilled fighter, he primarily featured just a jab, straight right hand and right hand to the body. Now, his arsenal is more well-rounded. In addition, you'll notice that he's stands less upright in the ring, giving him the ability to transition from defense to offense just a hair faster than he did earlier in his career.
Froch has improved in a variety of ways. He was once a notorious slow starter and would grind down fighters to win. However, against Bute and Yusaf Mack, he dominated fights from the onset. In addition, Froch has become a more versatile fighter. He can box, rush in, slug, in-fight, use movement and feint. Although he's not the most gifted athletic specimen in boxing, these added dimensions make him a more difficult fighter to defeat than the version that Kessler saw in 2010.
2. Kessler must be first.
Bute made the strategic mistake on waiting on Froch to initiate offense. Because Froch can rush in from bizarre angles with unconventional shots, he can be a tough fighter to counter. Kessler, like Bute, is much better leading than following. Kessler will look to set up his offense with his jab. He'll also incorporate his straight right hand and left hook. Although he certainly can counterpunch, that's not his strength as a fighter.
If Froch is going to stay out of the pocket, Kessler must track him down and apply pressure. This battle of ring generalship will be paramount in determining the winner of the fight. Kessler must force the pace and the action. He needs to make Froch fight three minutes a round and not let him engage only at spots. Froch has a tendency to take breaks during rounds. Kessler must capitalize on this downtime by initiating action.
3. Froch needs to take away Kessler's jab by staying out of midrange.
Let's face it. If it's a jabbing contest, Kessler will win. It's probably his best punch and he controls much of the action with it. For Froch, he must make Kessler beat him with other punches. Either by staying out or by getting all the way in, Froch will probably be in a better position to win rounds. He's a cagey fighter from the outside, where he can rush in and tag opponents with a variety of shots. He's also a capable infighter, an area where Kessler is not at his best.
Froch needs to use the ring, circle both directions and feature movement to confound Kessler, who is more of a straight line fighter (although not as rigid in this regard as he used to be). The more unpredictable that Froch is in the fight the better that he will do. A pocket should be an evil thing for Froch in this match. That set up gives Kessler time to control distance and work from his strengths. For Froch, make it sloppy, run some, grapple on the inside, but don't let Kessler be in position to jab.
4. The late rounds.
With the first fight seemingly up for grabs, Kessler was the boxer who had the big 12th round to secure the victory (in actuality, Kessler would have already won the fight going into the final frame, absent a knockdown). Both fighters are now in their mid-30s (Kessler – 34, Froch – 35) and are theoretically further from their athletic peaks. Since the first fight, Froch has gone 12 rounds against Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson and Andre Ward while Kessler hasn't even had a fight make it to the seventh. Froch performed well down the stretch against Johnson (the Abraham fight wasn't close) and even had a few good moments in the final third against Ward, even though that fight shouldn't have been on the table – there was some bizarre scoring in that bout.
The final third has a good chance to be the separator in this fight. Is it possible for one of the fighters to drop his fatigued opponent? Who can stick with his game plan in a hotly contested fight? Who needs to pull out a round or two to make sure he secures victory? The answer to these questions will most likely determine the winner of the match. Although Froch has gone harder rounds more recently, one could make the case that there's less wear and tear on Kessler. Ultimately, I'm not sure who the later rounds favor on paper, but it very well may play a crucial role in the fight.
5. The home elements.
Froch is the type of emotional fighter who really gains a lot from his home crowd. Although this match won't be in Nottingham, it's clear that Froch will be the overwhelming crowd favorite. This will help him perform in a tough match against a worthy opponent. Kessler has fought many times outside of Denmark in his career – America, Australia the U.K and Germany. He will not be overawed by the pro-Froch crowd, but he won't have the advantage in the arena. It should be noted that Kessler hasn't fought his best away from home. I'm not suggesting that he crumbles when outside of Denmark, but his record is just a pedestrian 3-2.
The officials for the match are a competent bunch with vast international experience. Pete Podgorski may not have the highest name recognition among American referees, but the Chicagoan has had a number of international assignments over the past five years, including fights in South Africa, Australia the Philippines and Canada. The three judges – Adalaide Byrd (USA), Carlos Sucre (Venezuela) and Jean-Francois Toupin (France) – have tons of title fight experience and are used to big events. Byrd can be an idiosyncratic scorer but she's a fine judge without discernible biases. Toupin and Sucre both get a lot of WBA assignments (Kessler, should be noted, is the WBA champion). Toupin has judged scores of title fights in Europe. Sucre has judged mostly in his home country and Central America, but he has also worked numerous Japanese assignments. On paper, this is a fair slate of officials for this match.
By following his blueprint against Lucian Bute, Froch has the formula to beat Kessler, who can be a tad mechanical and isn't a great counterpuncher. Froch needs to stay unpredictable and avoid repeatable patterns. If he follows this game plan, he can take more than enough rounds to win. However, he must stay busy and let his hands go. Kessler certainly will win some rounds in the fight. By staying active and fighting three minutes each round, he will pick up a number of frames on volume alone. However, in the trenches and along the outside of the ring, I think he'll be outgunned. I see Froch landing the more damaging shots and frustrating Kessler with his movement and offensive flurries. It will be a competitive fight but the Froch will hear his name called after the final bell.
Carl Froch UD Mikkel Kessler, along the lines of 116-112, or eight rounds to four.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 From Atlantic City

Instead of a more traditional analytical article about this weekend's fight action, I wanted to give a different type of perspective, on what makes live fight weekends so much fun. Of course, I'll cover Lucas Matthysse's rousing TKO win over Lamont Peterson, but I'll also provide a flavor of what happens during a boxing weekend in Atlantic City, my favorite place to watch and cover a fight.

1. Getting There

In many respects, Atlantic City, New Jersey is perfectly situated between New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., cities all within 200 miles of the seaside resort town. However, there are some major logistical challenges in getting there. From the north, travelers must deal with the Garden State Parkway, a roadway that cuts through some of the most densely populated regions of the U.S. On summer weekends, portions of the Parkway resemble a parking lot. From the west, drivers must negotiate the bottlenecks of coming out of Philadelphia and merging enough times to somehow wind up on the Atlantic City Expressway. From the south, fight fans have to figure out how to avoid D.C. traffic and the strange backups in Delaware along Interstate 95. By mileage, the trip isn't arduous but because of crowded roads, bad engineering and metropolitan sprawl, driving to A.C. can be an ordeal.

At least drivers have options. Fight fans trying to get to Atlantic City by air have other sorts of challenges. There is a small airport about 15 miles from the Boardwalk that is used commercially by Spirit Airlines, the budget of budget-conscious airlines. Spirit flies to a dozen or so places in the East and Midwest from Atlantic City and it’s not a realistic option for fans from greater distances or those who want to travel with any type of comfort (it's not true that Spirit charges passengers a fee for oxygen access, but I'm sure that a few of their bean counters have already done a cost-benefit analysis).

By air, most fight fans fly into Philadelphia, about 60 miles away, and then rent a car to drive to Atlantic City. In theory, it's a pretty straight shot once you get your bags, but as anyone who uses Philadelphia International Airport frequently could tell you, it's not exactly known for its efficiency. 

For my trip this weekend, I was coming from a conference at the Mohegan Sun casino in eastern Connecticut. Driving on a Friday, the GPS indicated that the trip should have taken five hours, but as the George Washington Bridge traffic was at a standstill (leaving New York to get to New Jersey), the GPS should have told me "you're fucked." Unwilling to let my Friday afternoon drift into the evening, I took a meandering journey through four of the five New York City boroughs and umpteen bridges named after Presidents, mayors, ward leaders, and who knows, an influential pushcart vendor? But persevere I did and by 6:30 I was at Atlantic City.

2. Old and New Friends

Atlantic City might be the best location in America to experience a fight weekend. Why is that you say? Because, everyone is trapped. Unlike large and expansive cities like Los Angeles or New York, there aren't tons of alternative entertainment options in Atlantic City and there really isn't anywhere else to go. Most people aren't scattering here and there after the fight.

In Atlantic City, the properties are much smaller than they are in Las Vegas. One casino might have a good restaurant or two. The one next store might have an excellent bar. A third has the decent breakfast place. Plus, with the Boardwalk, getting to and from the casinos near Boardwalk Hall (Trump Plaza, Caesars, Bally's) takes seconds. Thus, everyone tends to congregate and it’s easy to find people.  Sure, it doesn't have the wow factor of Vegas, but if boxing is on your mind you will be rewarded the whole weekend.

For me, this means meeting up with some great people affiliated with boxing. Every trip might include a slightly larger or smaller cast of excellent characters, but as a passionate fan of the sport, it's almost impossible not to have a memorable time surrounded by so many boxing lovers.

Although Peterson-Matthysse wasn't a rousing box office success – attendance was announced at slightly more than 4,000 – the fight certainly brought out a large contingent of writers, hardcore fans, boxing aficionados and friends.

Many of my favorites were there, like David Greisman, columnist for, Tim Starks, the founder of The Queensberry Rules, Andrew Fruman, contributor to Bad Left Hook, Victor Salazar, founder of The Boxing Voice and Bakari Lee, a lawyer from New Jersey who travels the country for big fights.

I also had a chance to finally meet a number of my favorites from social media. Would James Foley really be as funny in person as he is in 140 characters? Could Scott (last name withheld because of corporate security concerns) really drink everyone under the table? Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. In addition, I met some new people in the boxing world as well. Great folks like Emory Allen (Mr. Factoid on Twitter) and Matt Swain (Hans Landa) kept me entertained throughout the weekend.

These days, boxing is a niche sport in America. If you were talking around a water cooler at an office or even if you called into a general sports-talk radio show, no one would know who Lucas Matthysse is. But to us, boxing is a huge part of our lives. It's our passion and there's that special, warm feeling of talking boxing all day. Where else do we get to do that in a real interactive setting?

And you learn great things about people. You find out who shares your love of the Allman Brothers or old Spaghetti Westerns. There are employment lawyers, P.R. professionals, national security writers, limousine drivers, money managers, futures traders, doctoral students, school teachers, healthcare consultants and those who are unemployed. But whatever anyone's day job might be, the passion for boxing is the common denominator.

3. Boxing Talk

On Friday Night, I was talking with Starks and Fruman, and none of us knew how Peterson-Matthysse would play out. On Saturday afternoon, in a larger group that included Starks, Fruman, Foley, Eric Raskin of Grantland, Scott and Swain, everyone had essentially the same response. No one knew what was going to happen. There was a lot of "I think," or "it's possible," or "I could see," but all was said with little confidence. This fight was a boxing lover's dream, a matchup of two of the three best in the division where both had many different ways to win.

Over the weekend, we covered other goings on in the sport. Is this or that promoter in trouble? Does Pacquiao or Mayweather have a better legacy? How are the various networks doing and what does it mean for the sport? What fighters impress us and who leaves us with wanting more? What fights are we most looking forward to? Maidana-Lopez was talked about a lot throughout the weekend.

Of course, when boxing writers get together, it often turns into a sewing circle. This writer's a hack. Did you hear who was just hired by the Ring? Have you listened to the new boxing radio show? Why isn't this writer better read, etc.?
In all, it's a festival of all things boxing. There are some great technical boxing conversations and others which are far less printable. Almost all were informative, fun and, at points, utterly hilarious.

4. The Boardwalk

Maybe it's the Jersey in me (raised in South Jersey) but there's always something nostalgic about returning to the Boardwalk. Sure, there are still the kitschy tee shirt shops and arcades, but there's also the smell of the salt water, the call of the sea gulls and, of course, the grime – cigarette butts everywhere, forlorn types walking around in their personal Last Chance Saloons, pseudo "tough guys" and actual, real tough guys. But there are also families, ice cream, the ocean waves and romance. It's the contradictions that make Atlantic City what it is.

5. Boardwalk Hall

For my money, there isn't a better large-fight arena in boxing. The crowds in A.C. will never have the same type of electricity of those at the MGM Grand or Madison Square Garden, but quite honestly, Atlantic City hasn't gotten those types of mega-fights in decades. What Boardwalk Hall has is perfect sightlines in an arena not affected by corporate interference of luxury boxes. If you buy seats in the stands, you are right on top of the action. You don't need binoculars or have to rely on the video board. At practically every seat in the place, (and I've been in a lot of them), you feel like you're involved in the fight.
In addition, the staff at Boardwalk Hall is wonderfully laissez-faire. They aren't too strict about patrons moving to a better seat, row or even section (the floor, of course, excluded). The arena has no frills (although it does have a great candy station). It's not sexy, but it's entirely functional.  

One last note about the crowd at Boardwalk Hall, they are dressed as uniquely as any boxing crowd you will ever see. Veering a little too far on the trashy axis, you'll see lots of upper thigh tattoos, onesies, dress shorts, fuchsia, circa 1970-pimp suits (not in the style of, but actual ones) and lots of six-inch heels. If you ever wanted to attend a boxing match and go home with a prostitute, perhaps no arena in the world makes it as easy as Boardwalk Hall does. Depending on your sensibilities, this is either a strong disincentive to attend a fight there or a pot sweetener. For sheer crowd-watching purposes, Boardwalk Hall is unsurpassed.

6. The Undercard

Saturday's card started at 3:30 local time and had almost a dozen fights. As expected, there were a number of uncompetitive affairs featuring mostly recent Olympians and young fighters from Al Haymon's stable. No, I didn't attend all of the fights on the marathon card, but one in particular grabbed my attention. It was Washington D.C.-area prospect Thomas Williams Jr. (13-0) vs. faded veteran Otis Griffin (24-11-2), a guy who still had a chin and could go rounds. Griffin, who started fighting in 2004, had come into this fight with only one win in his last seven fights, but faced very good opposition in that time, like Karo Murat, Will Rosinsky and Cornelius White. Williams had stopped his last six opponents and the last time he went the distance was a four-rounder.

Williams looked good throughout most of the fight, but he was flummoxed when Griffin wouldn't go down from his power shots. It was clear that the southpaw Williams had all sorts of weapons (right hook, left uppercut, jab, straight left hand) but didn't yet know how to deploy them properly. Although he was winning every round, by the sixth, he seemed to run out of ideas offensively.

Griffin was still cagey and unleashed a few sneaky right hands that left their mark. He also set a successful trap or two along the ropes. Williams wound up winning 79-73 (x2) and 80-72. From a matchmaking perspective, it was a perfect fight for Williams and it provided him with immeasurable experience.

Elsewhere on the undercard, British Olympian Anthony Ogogo won his second professional fight in a six-rounder. Ogogo has fast hands and excellent poise, but his lack of power may be a problem as he progresses in the middleweight division.

Shawn Porter had his first bout of 2013 and successfully moved past last year's disappointing draw against Julio Diaz. Porter beat up an overmatched Phil lo Greco and scored two knockdowns based more on hand speed than power. At 25, and with 22 professional fights, Porter's future is now. He's moved between welterweight and junior middleweight and I'm not sure that Porter knows who he is in the ring yet. He doesn't have real power. He has good, but not exceptional hand speed. He takes breaks during rounds and he may lack a true killer instinct. From afar, he looks like Shane Mosley, but he lacks Shane's power and perhaps his heart. We'll see what happens with Porter but I don't see signs of future greatness.

7. Devon's Will

Let's face it. Devon Alexander wasn't going to lose to late replacement Lee Purdy. Alexander had more skill, experience and a full training camp. However, it was clear from the first round that Alexander hurt his left hand. Instead of succumbing while under duress, as he had done in his lone loss to Tim Bradley, Devon rose to the occasion. Not pitty-patting on his bicycle, Devon engaged Purdy throughout the fight and bested him with impressive right hooks and uppercuts.

In addition, like a pro, he flashed his left hand enough to keep Purdy honest. Devon was fighting at a disadvantage but he did a decent job of disguising it. His hand speed looked excellent, but perhaps the best part of his performance was his willingness to mix it up. Purdy's corner stopped the fight after seven, for their charge had been battered by a one-handed fighter.

8. Matthysse

I have two lasting images of Lucas Matthysse's third-round blitzing of Lamont Peterson. Fixed in my memory is the battle of left hooks early in the third round. Both threw menacing left hooks at the same time. Peterson's landed flush, yet he was the one who met the canvas. The difference in power (and chins) between the two fighters could not have been more evident. Peterson somehow beat the count but that punch sent him sprawled out in an alarming fashion.

A few seconds later, Matthysse knocked Peterson down again. Maybe that was predictable at that point, but what wasn't expected was Steve Smoger, the ref with perhaps the longest leash in the sport, taking a look at Peterson and waving the fight off. Smoger was one of Peterson's best shots to stay in the fight. Peterson had been knocked down early in fights against Bradley, Ortiz and Khan but managed to work his way back into them. With Smoger, he figured to have a ref who would give him every opportunity to survive in the ring. However, when Smoger studied Peterson after being knocked down for the third time, he had seen enough. The fight was over and Matthysse had the most resounding win of his career. What electric punching power! 

9. Scoops

Part of the fun of hanging around during a big fight weekend is the impromptu conversations with boxing figures. In the past, I've had great, spontaneous conversations after weigh-ins, at a breakfast buffet, at bars, on the boardwalk – wherever. This weekend, most of my damage was done after the fight, where I was able to talk to Kevin Cunningham (Devon Alexander's trainer), Mike Stafford (Adrien Broner's trainer and a good friend of Cunningham's) and members of Lee Purdy's team.

Cunningham told me after the fight that the game plan was to meet Purdy at the center of the ring and to dominate with power shots. He was very pleased with Alexander's performance and he was convinced that Devon would have stopped him earlier with the full use of his left hand. In addition, Cunningham liked the way that Alexander fought after being injured. He told me that he kept emphasizing to Devon in the corner that he had to keep Purdy honest with the left hand and that Devon needed to keep throwing it, even if he didn't connect with it.

As for Alexander's next opponents, Cunningham indicated that Amir Khan was a real possibility or, if Devon "gets the lottery ticket," a fight with Floyd Mayweather. Either way, Cunningham thought that Alexander would be out of action for a little while but would be able to return later on in the year.
Stafford was grinning from ear-to-ear when Paulie Malignaggi's name was brought up. He said to "expect something special." He indicated that this will be the first fight that Broner will not be worried about weight. Stafford was excited about Broner fighting at 100% capacity. He wasn't too concerned with what Paulie had to offer offensively.

Purdy's camp (essentially a group interview with his team) was forthright about how much trouble their fighter had in making weight. With only four weeks’ notice, they spent as much time as possible trying to get down to 147. During the match, they were most concerned with getting Purdy to the second half of the fight. They ended the bout because their fighter had taken too many shots and they wanted to preserve Purdy's availability for additional opportunities in the U.K. later on in the year.

10. Toga Bar

Let me set the stage. Toga Bar is a bar/lounge at Caesars right off the casino floor. It has a big oval bar and to the left there is a dance floor and an area with couches. The following groups congregate here during the weekend: boxing personnel (fans/fighters/trainers/promoters/writers), Atlantic City riff-raff, bachelorette parties, groups of middle-aged men, a few normal couples, prostitutes and old timers. On Saturday Nights, scantily clad women dance on elevated platforms by the bar as the DJ spins the dance hits du jour.

I've seen some strange things at this place: projectile vomit that would make fans of The Exorcist squeamish, the best couch dance ever – by a woman who was waiting for her husband to get released by prison (no clothes were removed), Eddie Hearn owning the room dancing with a half-dozen ladies at a time, a 60-something guy wearing all black with Blues Brothers sunglasses and dancing for hours at a time – by himself, a girl being thrown out of the bar for exposing her breast…I could go on and on. With this eclectic mix of different ages, races, socioeconomic backgrounds and walks of life, I've never had the same night at the Toga Bar twice. Saturday proved to be no different.

Of course, I’ve also had some great boxing conversations at Toga as well. After the fights it's the place to go for fight personnel, fans and writers to revel in the euphoric aftermath of live boxing and party into the wee hours. On Saturday, our extended boxing crew went about 30-40 people deep. Everyone was in awe of Matthysse's performance. There was beer, scotch, wine, cigars and cigarettes, much laughter and excellent bull shitting.

But things, as they do at Toga, got strange. As a guy was showing his moves on the dance floor (turned out he was a professional dancer), a 22-year-old college girl challenged him to do The Worm. He made her go first, and she just killed it. He couldn't even compete with her. Then, a 70-something man in an all-white linen suit took over the dance floor, bringing an assortment of attractive young women with him. In this group was Lee Purdy's sister, just an absolutely flawless human specimen. In time, all of the various groups at the Toga mixed in on the dance floor (except the hookers, they were working) and it was one of those wonderful nights where guards were let down and the only thing on the menu to order was good times.

The boxingheads really took to the dance floor. You need to see The Boxing Voice's Peter Clarke do his two-step. David Greisman practically has the elevated stage at Toga Bar named after him. I gave it a go myself, trying to hold my own against a brunette whose flexibility could inspire numerous legends and tall tales.

The night rolled on past 4 a.m. and a late night meal was needed. As a final salvo, about a dozen from the boxing crew shot the shit at Trump Plaza's all-night coffee shop for another hour. There were hilarious jokes and one-liners, some fun trash-talk and, as always, more than a hint of bittersweet, knowing that another memorable fight weekend was about to conclude.

Driving back to Philadelphia on Sunday morning, my throat was a little scratchy from the night before, I was tired as all hell and I felt a natural high like you wouldn't believe. That hour drive back felt like 10 minutes.
When's the next fight?

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Pound-for-Pound Update

The results of the Mayweather-Guerrero and Mares-Ponce de Leon fights had several ramifications for the Saturday Night Boxing Top-20 Rankings. With Floyd Mayweather's solid showing against Robert Guerrero, he retains his #1 ranking.  As for Guerrero, he was not competitive in the fight after the third round and he exits the Rankings. On the undercard, Abner Mares had a resounding stoppage win over Daniel Ponce de Leon.  He ascends to #8 in the Rankings.  The following fighters dropped a spot: Vitali Klitschko (9), Nonito Donaire (10) and Tim Bradley (11).  

Japanese southpaw banger Takashi Uchiyama debuts in the SNB Rankings after last week's knockout win over Jaider Parra. Uchiyama has now made seven defenses of his junior lightweight title.  He enters the Rankings at #20. In addition, with Guerrero's exit from the SNB Top-20, the following fighters have moved up one position: Anselmo Moreno (15), Daniel Geale (16), Danny Garcia (17), Juan Estrada (18) and Saul Alvarez (19).  

The complete list SNB Top-20 is below:
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Andre Ward
  3. Juan Manuel Marquez
  4. Sergio Martinez
  5. Manny Pacquiao
  6. Wladimir Klitschko
  7. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  8. Abner Mares
  9. Vitali Klitschko
  10. Nonito Donaire
  11. Tim Bradley
  12. Roman Gonzalez
  13. Carl Froch
  14. Bernard Hopkins
  15. Anselmo Moreno
  16. Daniel Geale
  17. Danny Garcia
  18. Juan Estrada
  19. Saul Alvarez
  20. Takashi Uchiyama
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Mayweather-Guerrero

In the eighth round of the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero fight, Floyd consistently landed a punch that I had never seen him throw previously. It was a punch that few fighters would even consider having in their repertoire. I'll call it a lead sweeping right hook. First of all, the majority of orthodox fighters don't throw even a traditional rear-handed hook. There's a lot of inherent danger with the punch. If ineffective, it leaves the whole right side of a fighter exposed. If you observe Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. or Erik Morales, you will often see them throw a right hook when at close range (incidentally, Abner Mares scored his first knockdown over Daniel Ponce de Leon on Saturday with a cuffing right hook). And although Floyd did throw some traditional rear hooks on Saturday, this sweeping shot was something different entirely, and he certainly didn't throw it from close range.

Often, when orthodox fighters end combinations or counter with a left hook, they will throw it to a specific area and not where a fighter is presently when they start the punch. (Danny Garcia is a master at it. Consider his left hook that dropped Amir Khan) For instance, if Fighter A throws the straight right hand/left hook combination, he will start the left hook anticipating where his opponent, Fighter B, will wind up after he reacts to the right hand. So, if Fighter B avoids the right hand, he most likely will move to his right, providing the opportunity for Fighter A to land the left hook.

These types of left hooks are often called "clean-up" left hooks – they end a combination and cause serious damage when landing. "Clean-up" left hooks are wide shots and are far less surgical than something like Floyd's "check hook" that derailed Ricky Hatton, where he stepped back from close range and unloaded with pinpoint precision, or a typical left hook to the body often seen during infighting.

Again, the above was referring to "clean-up" left hooks at the end of a combination. What Floyd did with his right hand on Saturday was completely different. In the eighth, he fired this "clean-up" type punch, but with his right hand, and often as lead shots, not counters. Floyd repeatedly connected with the punch and by the end of the round Guerrero was battered and cut. It was a wonderful new wrinkle from Floyd. But what did he see in the ring that enabled him to land this untraditional shot?

As Guerrero started to get hit more throughout the fight, he would duck down and to his left after exchanges. Perhaps thinking he was out of reach or at a bad angle for Floyd to land his straight right hand, Guerrero soon found out that this strategy provided him only temporary shelter.

Floyd waited for Guerrero to throw a quick combination and then he unloaded to a spot. He landed big with the sweeping rights. Ultimately, these were the most impactful blows of the fight. And like a veteran athlete, Floyd kept exploiting his opponent's weakness. It was Guerrero who needed to make an adjustment, and it was too late in coming.

Everything else Floyd did on Saturday was worthy of one of his vintage performances – finding the range with pinpoint shots, dazzling with quickness, scoring with single right hands, working in his large arsenal with increasing effectiveness, spinning out of trouble along the ropes and neutralizing his opponent's strengths with his combination of technique, reflexes, accuracy and feints.

But what stood out to me on Saturday was that sweeping right hook, which was a further symbol of Floyd's compulsive quest to achieve perfection. In Floyd's last fight against Miguel Cotto, he scored consistently with a looping overhand right. Mayweather claimed that he stole the punch from Shane Mosley, who had success with the shot in his fight against Cotto. So, in the last two fights, the best boxer in the world decided to add two new punches to his arsenal. How's that for not resting on one's laurels!

When Michael Jordan was in his prime, it was said that every summer he would add an additional dimension to his game for the next season. One year it was a turnaround-J; another year it would be the 18-foot pull up jumper or the spin move to the baseline. Jordan was the best of his time, but in his eyes there was always room for improvement. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have shown the same type of initiative in working on their games to continually get better.

It's fair to put Floyd in that category of athletes who compulsively strive for perfection. The great competitors are never satisfied with their past accomplishments; they're always looking to improve. And for Mayweather, it wasn't only the sweeping right hook as a means to get better.

In the lead up to the fight, and certainly after the bout, Floyd admitted that he worked on defensive improvements for Guerrero. For Floyd, this meant bringing his somewhat estranged father back as lead trainer to work on defensive technique and footwork. In the Cotto fight, Miguel had some success against Mayweather along the ropes. Although he didn't win a lot of rounds, he certainly got more than a few good shots in and Floyd granted Cotto extended time to try and hit him. Perhaps it was an off night for Floyd, but he didn't look particularly sharp.

With Floyd Sr. back in the fold for Guerrero, the results were evident, not just in defensive positioning but in temperament. Instead of permitting Guerrero to wail on him along the ropes, Mayweather would leave exchanges and find a new angle for engagement. In addition, if Mayweather couldn't goad Guerrero to engage, he would use the ring to find a different plan for attacking or countering. He didn't stand in front of Guerrero nearly as much as he did against Cotto.

But back to that right hand, I'd be surprised if the Mayweathers practiced it that often in the gym, if it all. It's an untraditional punch and normally fighters work on their straight right hands or uppercuts instead of trying out hybrid offerings. I'm fairly certain that Floyd improvised in the ring on the fly as the greats often do. He recognized the opportunity instinctively and he successfully executed the punch without hesitation. I can't imagine Floyd Sr. (who's not very verbose in the corner) telling his son, "O.K., I want you to throw a lead, slinging right hook, and that's the key to the fight." No, Floyd saw the opportunity, and he capitalized on it. It was a way for him to win the fight, an admission that something new was needed.

Saturday was my first live Mayweather fight, and it was quite a pleasure. To many, Floyd's performance could have been considered workmanlike. There were no knockdowns or very few sustained moments of action. But Floyd's "workmanlike" was wonderful and humbling. Dominating a good fighter with relative ease, I was enthralled.

To watch him think his way through the match was a special experience. Everyone can talk about the straight right hand, but what about his counter jab, which was pulverizing and was his first counter shot to land consistently. His legs looked great as well and he seemed so much faster live than on TV.

Because of Floyd's superior speed and accuracy, Guerrero had to respect almost every feint. Floyd's athletic and technical gifts forced Guerrero to become a spectator in his own fight at points because he was so worried about defending himself from getting hit cleanly. In addition, Floyd showed yet again how good his chin is. Guerrero actually rocked Floyd with some bruising shots in the first two rounds, specifically a counter left uppercut in the first and a counter right hook on the top of the head in the second. Floyd took Guerrero's best and continued on with his game plan.

Saturday may not be remembered as one of Floyd's more memorable fights, but when Floyd is at his best, his matches most often won't be worthy of ESPN Classic. He's a neutralizer on a grand scale. Even when Guerrero did well in the first two rounds, Robert still stood there, semi-motionless, waiting on Floyd; he was fighting the wrong fight.

Floyd's renewed commitment to defense will mean fewer opportunities for his opponents and more boos from the crowd. However, the best version of Floyd does not make blood-and-guts fights. He's a fighter on the top of his game at the highest echelon in the sport. And if that's boring to you, it's not my problem, or, with buckets of guaranteed money, his.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter
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Friday, May 3, 2013

Mayweather-Guerrero: Keys to the Fight

Saturday marks Floyd Mayweather's return to the ring after a one-year hiatus. For his WBC title defense, he selected interim welterweight titlist Robert Guerrero, who successfully moved up to 147 lbs. in 2012 with victories over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto. For Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs), does he still have the same package of elite skills at 36? Does Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs) have enough internal fortitude to press Mayweather hard for 12 rounds? Will there be an upset at the MGM Grand? Below are the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.


One guy has it and one guy doesn’t. And ultimately, however Robert Guerrero decides to fight Floyd Mayweather, this problem will manifest. I don’t doubt that Guerrero has the ability to make the fight exciting by being aggressive and taking it to Mayweather along the ropes. However, I believe that too much is made about Guerrero’s offensive versatility and far less is brought up regarding his poor defense. Everyone can touch him, whether it’s deliberate punchers like Selcuk Aydin or Michael Katsidis or more athletic fighters like Andre Berto.

Guerrero just isn’t responsible enough defensively. It’s not a question of will or focus; he’s never had the defensive foundation. He's gotten to this point in his career on offense, but his ability to withstand incoming fire from the most precise surgeon in the sport will be a major challenge for him.

Floyd’s Age, Inactivity and Conditioning.

During the Mayweather-Guerrero All Access show, there was an interesting sequence where Floyd asked his father if he should do more pushups after a workout. The elder Floyd said no and suggested that Floyd needed to save his body. No one has ever questioned Mayweather's dedication in the gym. In fact, it’s quite possible that he over-trained for the Cotto bout, peaking too early and not being at his best on fight night. It’s also possible with Floyd’s advancing age and inactive fight schedule over the last few years that his reflexes aren't what they used to be. He might be in tremendous shape, but that's a different proposition from being in optimal boxing condition. I'm sure that his body will look excellent on fight night, but for him, it's all about reflexes, quick, subtle movements and pulling the trigger.

Floyd has prospered throughout his career by outlasting his opponents’ early outbursts to dominate the second half of fights. Obviously, conditioning plays a huge role in this. However, if Floyd can’t train like he used to, if his body can no longer take the same type of grind in the gym or in the ring, perhaps this will be a different Floyd in the ring on Saturday. If Floyd can't condition himself as well as he could in his vintage fights, the back end of Saturday's bout could be very competitive.

I’m not taking Floyd’s jail time into consideration for this matchup. He’s been out for many months and whatever degradation he had as a result of his prison routine, I’m sure he’s returned to his civilian training regimen. I’m more concerned about his overall age and inactivity than his time in prison, specifically.

Guerrero’s Punch Volume.

Everyone always asks, “How do you beat Floyd,” as if there is one magical panacea, one solution that is so glaringly obvious that no one else has thought of it yet. Obviously Floyd has beaten some great talents over the years (to say nothing of some of the best trainers in the sport). Fighters have tried to best him with the jab, pressure or with massive power shots. To this point, you could count on one hand the number of truly competitive fights that Mayweather has had throughout his career.

My suggestion is this: You cannot beat Mayweather unless you throw, and throw a lot. Too many of Mayweather's opponents stare at him from midrange, afraid to pull the trigger, waiting for the perfect opening. In the meantime, Floyd unloads punishing single right hands. Fighters who wait on Floyd lose. The answer for Floyd’s opponents is to scrap any notion of perfection.

Guerrero needs to throw and throw and throw. He can’t worry about not landing cleanly. He has to hit what’s available to him. Hit the shoulders, arms, sides, anything that is in play. The one issue with Floyd’s shell defense is that his posture and temperament aren't set up to throw 60 punches a round. Guerrero must capitalize on this. He often will throw 80+ punches a frame. If he can do that against Floyd, he'll win some rounds based on activity alone. Think of it in another context; Floyd’s opponents usually land 15-20% of their shots. If Guerrero throws 800 punches in the fight, he’ll connect with 120-160 blows. That volume is enough to cause some damage.

The flip side of this equation is for Guerrero to realize that he will get hit and he will look bad. This is the area of psychological gamesmanship that Floyd has mastered over the years. He’ll embarrass fighters. He’ll get them completely out of position; he’ll hit them with shots they don’t see coming. Naturally, fighters will clam up and instinctively protect themselves in these circumstances. For Guerrero to have a chance, he must have the temperament (not necessarily the style) of a true pressure fighter. He has to stay offensive despite getting hit cleanly. He must trust his chin and continue with his game plan.


Guerrero has gotten cut frequently in fights, and gruesomely in his last bout against Andre Berto. In addition, there are a number of concerns that I have about Guerrero in this bout regarding cuts: 1. Infighting against Mayweather, who uses his shoulders, arms and elbows 2. Typical southpaw vs. orthodox fighter concerns, leading to clashes of heads. 3. Guerrero will definitely get hit very cleanly.

These elements do not favor Guerrero in the fight. I wouldn’t advise him to do anything differently, but cuts may be an inevitable outcome. Thus, it’s very important for him to start fast and win rounds early in the fight in case of an accidental cut.

Guerrero’s Punch Variety.

Guerrero must feature as much of his entire offensive arsenal as possible against Mayweather. Now, if he’s fighting from close range, he won’t be able to strafe Mayweather from distance with his straight left hand. Still, he’s going to have to feature his uppercuts, right hook and jab. In addition, he’ll have to mix up how he initiates offense. Mayweather is a master at timing, making adjustments and anticipating his opponents' actions. For Guerrero this means, starting combinations with his jab, right hook or lead left hand. In addition, he can’t get into predictable patterns on the ropes. If he’s just looking to land a short left hand, Mayweather will counter with a straight right or a left hook.

Guerrero’s effectiveness in this area will improve if he doesn’t smother himself along the ropes. Against Berto, he limited his ability to land his uppercuts because he got way too close to him. Even in close, he must ensure that he leaves enough room to land a variety of power shots.

Also, mixing up strategy will really help. Although Guerrero most likely wants to win this fight on the inside, I’d like to see him box from the outside through stretches of rounds and use movement to create different angles. The more dimensions Guerrero can show the better he will fare in the fight.


To me, it all comes down to defense. Guerrero gets hit too cleanly and too often. Floyd will probably be able to land close to 50% of his power shots and while Mayweather isn’t a one-punch knockout artist at welterweight, his power is strong in the division. More importantly, his accuracy will be able to thwart Guerrero’s steady advancement.

I do think that the fight will be competitive early and that Guerrero will bring some excitement to the MGM Grand with his pressure and offensive activity. Ultimately, Mayweather breaks him down as the fight progresses. I don’t think that Guerrero will have an answer for Mayweather’s straight right hand or uppercuts (left or right). Eventually, Mayweather will bust up Guerrero’s face and the fight will end on cuts.

Floyd Mayweather TKO 9 Robert Guerrero.

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