Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Rundown: Broner, Golovkin and the Killers

Big Story of the Month: The Killers 
The most compelling story of June was the power surge in the sport provided by Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev and Gennady Golovkin. All three fighters scored stoppages within three rounds and electrified boxing fans with their fistic assaults. Each has international backgrounds that involve a melding of disparate boxing influences – Stevenson, Haitian-born, based in Montreal, who was a pupil of the late Emanuel Steward; Kovalev, an orthodox Russian who employs a slick southpaw from Florida (John David Jackson) as a coach; Golovkin, a Kazakh Olympic silver medalist who trains in Southern California, often sparring against tough Mexican and Mexican-American fighters.  
Stylistically, these fighters are tough to pin down. Kovalev and Golovkin have excellent footwork, cut off the ring beautifully and feature a wide arsenal. Stevenson has God-given power in his left hand and has the height, daring and athleticism to cause all sorts of problems for opponents. Boxing is in much better shape today because of these three. Expect plenty of more knockouts from this tandem. Add Lucas Matthysse to this list as another Killer and these might be the best four power punchers in the sport.   
A Damn Good Month
Alfredo Angulo: It's not often that the fighter who lost (Angulo) had a better month than the one who beat him (Erislandy Lara). Such is the world of expectations, where Angulo, who was a huge underdog, knocked down Lara twice before retiring in the 10th after a heavy shot to the eye.  Very few gave Angulo a chance to beat Lara and he showed that he can be a viable fighter in one of the best divisions in the sport.  
Sakio Bika: In his fourth opportunity for a major title belt, Bika finally succeeded by besting Marco Antonio Periban. The fight was close, crude and wildly entertaining. What Bika lacked in polish, he made up for with tenacity. Although he won't pose a threat to the top of the super middleweight division, he's still a tough, rugged fighter who brings his best effort every time out.  
Brooklyn Boxing: Since launching its Brooklyn Boxing series at the Barclays Center last year, Golden Boy has seen strong growth at the gate. In the last two months, attendance figures broke 10,000 for fights headlined by Garcia-Judah and Broner-Malignaggi. Golden Boy has a number of attractive ticket sellers in the Northeast and the company should be praised for successfully opening up a new market for boxing fans.  
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.: For not fighting, he had an excellent month. Why is that? The Nevada State Athletic Commission reduced his fine for a positive marijuana test from $900,000 to $100,000. Put that into context: most fighters will never sniff $800k in their careers.  I'm sure that Chavez had an appropriate celebration upon hearing the good news.  
Anthony Crolla: Moving up from junior lightweight to lightweight, Crolla faced the best opponent of his career in Gavin Rees and won a majority decision. Crolla isn't a great fighter by any stretch but a future payday against titlist Ricky Burns will certainly put some more zeroes in his bank account. However you look at his performance against Rees (and I had him losing), he's in a much better position now than he was 30 days ago.  
Gennady Golovkin: Making quick work of Matthew Macklin, a fighter who gave Sergio Martinez and Felix Sturm loads of trouble, Golovkin's status in the sport continues to ascend. He landed a left hook to the liver that truly pulverized Macklin, keeping him down on the canvas for several minutes. Boxing fans will be talking about that punch for a long time, but will they remember the two beautiful uppercuts that set up the shot? Golovkin's package of power, footwork and ring intelligence provides him with the potential to become one of true elites in the sport. He has quickly emerged as one of the faces of HBO boxing.
Bryant Jennings: Jennings continues to make progress in his rise toward the top of the heavyweight division. Facing the rugged Andrey Fedosov, Jennings had to survive some tough early rounds before taking control of the fight with his movement and power shots, specifically his lead left hook and straight right hand. The fight ended early because of a cut, but Jennings demonstrated that he could make needed adjustments against a game opponent.  
Sergey Kovalev: Kovalev's path of destruction continues. In June, Cornelius White was the latest victim; he didn't make it out of the third round. Working with John David Jackson in Florida, Kovalev features excellent balance and poise in addition to his heavy, heavy hands. After considering a bout with Bernard Hopkins, Kovalev decided to go for his first title shot against Nathan Cleverly in August.
Marcos Maidana: Maidana had to wade through some tense moments against Josesito Lopez, but he broke through in sixth round, knocking him down with a beautiful right hand and earning the stoppage just a few moments later. Matched correctly, Maidana still provides a ton of entertainment value. He ended the month on a down note, getting in a car crash in Argentina. Luckily, he sustained no major injuries and should be ready to fight again later on in the fall. 
Sergio Mora: ESPN was nice enough to give Sergio Mora another opportunity to appear on its airwaves, a very magnanimous gesture – Mora can be brutal to watch. Mora seized his opportunity and dominated fringe contender Grzegorz Proksa over 10 rounds. He even demonstrated an offensive temperament at times. It was a good showing for Mora who needed this kind of performance to keep him viable in the sport.  
Adonis Stevenson: Moving up from super middleweight to light heavyweight to face champion Chad Dawson seemed like a tall order for Adonis "Superman" Stevenson. Perhaps the nickname is apt, because his left hand that starched Dawson in the first round seemed otherworldly. Although not as disciplined in the ring as fellow Killers Golovkin, Matthysse and Kovalev, Stevenson might have the single best one-punch knockout power in the sport. No fighter had a better month than Stevenson did. Big opportunities are in store for him.  
Not the Best Month, Not the Worst Month 
Adrien Broner: Barely getting by Paulie Malignaggi is not the stuff that legends are made out of. Two judges favored Broner's power punches over Malignaggi's volume (I did as well) and Broner can move on to bigger opportunities. However, he failed to dominate and at times seemed uninterested during the fight. After his victory, he implored the fans to let him know whom he should face next. They want Matthysse. Does Broner? 
Brandon Gonzales: Stepping up in opposition against South Africa's Thomas Oosthuizen, Gonzales, a sizable underdog, dominated the first half of the fight. Unfortunately, Gonzales was far less active in the last few rounds and he essentially gave the fight away, earning a draw. Gonzales has the athleticism, footwork and punch arsenal to be a player in the super middleweight division, but first he needs to improve his conditioning and continue to gain seasoning. He's not yet a 12-round fighter.  
Virgil Hunter: He didn't win his two biggest bouts of the month – Angulo against Lara and Gonzalez against Oosthuizen – but he got far more out of his fighters than expected. His work with Angulo in cutting off the ring and applying intelligent pressure was nothing short of remarkable. In addition, his seductive pleadings to Gonzales in the corner will be a touchstone in boxing circles for years to come.  
Erislandy Lara: Most expected Lara to bomb out Angulo with his accuracy, footwork and power. Although Lara did score the 10th round TKO and won a majority of the rounds, he did taste the canvas twice. One of the knockdowns was the result of trying to escape the pocket with his hands down, a major defensive lapse. Although Lara showed toughness and resiliency in the fight, his reluctance to throw punches and perhaps a shaky beard could derail him sooner rather than later. 
Paulie Malignaggi: Malignaggi lost a split decision to Broner. He didn't deserve the victory but he put forth a spirited effort. He won most of the early rounds on activity and ring generalship but once Broner let his hands go, Malignaggi was bested. It was a good performance from Malignaggi and it at least shows that he remains viable in one of the best divisions in the sport. 
Seth Mitchell: Barely escaping an early knockdown in his rematch against Jonathon Banks, Mitchell tentatively boxed his way to a unanimous victory. On the plus side, at least he demonstrated that he knows how to tie-up. However, he fought with too much caution and he was clearly hurt by Banks at a number of points throughout the fight. His performance didn't instill much confidence that his career is back on track.  
Willie Nelson: Nelson was supposed to be in a showcase fight against Luciano Cuello; instead he wound up holding on for dear life. Although Nelson has an impressive package of size, height, power and an offensive temperament, his defense is a work-in-progress and his chin is suspect. He'll have some fun fights before his career is up, but without making some needed adjustments (perhaps with a trainer other than Jack Loew), he'll be fodder for the best in the junior middleweight division.
Thomas Oosthuizen: Making his HBO debut, Oosthuizen looked perplexed during the first half of his fight against Brandon Gonzalez. He eventually started to score in the later rounds with straight lefts and some short right hooks. He wound up with a debatable draw (the majority of ringside observers felt that he had lost). His performance will most likely not inspire U.S. networks to have him make an immediate return engagement.  
Is this Month Over Yet? 
Jonathon Banks: In the first three rounds of his rematch against Seth Mitchell, it seemed that Banks was on his way to score his second consecutive knockout victory over the young heavyweight. Then, something strange happened: he decided to stop throwing. In one of the more bizarre showings in recent memory, Banks fought (although that's too strong of a word) with complete indifference through most of the second half of his fight. He lost a winnable decision, and probably only he knows why he failed to pull the trigger. Weird.
Chad Dawson: Upon returning to his natural division at light heavyweight after being stopped by Andre Ward, the thought was that Dawson would continue his reign at 175 against Adonis Stevenson. Conventional wisdom lasted for less than three minutes in the ring as Dawson was unable to make it out of the first round. Stevenson tattooed Dawson with an enormous left hand and now Dawson has been knocked out in two consecutive fights. This was an enormous setback for his career. Never a fan favorite or a particularly pleasing fighter to watch, I'm not sure what's next for him.  
Joan Guzman: Guzman was supposed to have a junior welterweight eliminator in June and instead weighed in at 8.5 lbs. over the limit, completing a cycle where he has eaten his way out of relevance in boxing. Talent is such a terrible thing to waste, but Guzman didn't merely waste his; he blowtorched it.
Josesito Lopez: He was in the fight with Maidana before it was stopped (I'd say prematurely) in the sixth round. However, he now has back-to-back knockout losses on his resume. Although a fun and spirited fighter, he lacks a true finishing punch and has major defensive shortcomings. He's a fun guy to watch and an easy one to root for, but he'll need to be matched very carefully as he moves on, or his career will end very quickly.  
J'Leon Love: Love tested positive last month for a banned diuretic after his fight with Gabriel Rosado, where he earned a disputed split decision. The Nevada State Athletic Commission correctly changed that result to a "no-contest" and suspended him for six months.  
Grzegorz Proksa: Less than a year ago, he was challenging Golovkin on HBO. Now, he lost to Sergio Mora on ESPN. I'm pretty sure that this isn't the career trajectory that he or his team envisioned. Proksa looked completely befuddled by Mora's movement and it was a very poor showing for him. He'll have a long slog to get back to relevance in the middleweight division.  
Gavin Rees: Rees fought well against Anthony Crolla, but he wasn't rewarded by the judges. He dropped a majority decision. Rees still has the activity, punch volume and spirit to compete at lightweight, but losing to a glorified journeyman (however dubious the decision was) doesn't put his career in a good place. 
Bad Broadcasters: 
Max Kellerman, HBO: Kellerman's incessant love poems to broadcast partner Andre Ward have now detracted from several fights, most noticeably in Froch-Kessler II last month, but also in June's Oosthuizen-Gonzalez match. Ultimately, this constant smooching of Ward detracts from the fights at hand and calls into question Kellerman's impartiality and objectivity as a broadcaster. Kellerman is a knowledgeable boxing resource and truly loves the sport, but around Ward, he sounds like an awestruck or too deferent fan. Max, Andre won't be going home with you.  
Adam Smith and Glenn McCrory, Sky: Quite frankly, Smith and McCrory's call of the Rees-Crolla fight was the most biased account I have heard in recent memory. Throughout the fight, they remarked how Gavin Rees may be on his way out of boxing, despite Rees winning many of the rounds. They consistently rewarded Crolla's defense although he was getting hit and they barely noticed his low punch output throughout much of the fight. Their call of the action smacked of an agenda. Remember, Smith is not just a broadcaster; he runs Sky's boxing programming.

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
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