Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Rundown: A Knockout Month

The Big Story of the Month: Knockouts Galore

If you're a fan of knockouts, July (and the first weekend of August) was the month for you. From Tony Thompson's rousing comeback to John Molina's final-round heroics to Edwin Rodriguez's blitzkrieg, memorable endings dominated the month. The highlight of July was Golden Boy's Knockout Kings II card, an event that clearly lived up to its name, and then some. In perhaps the best card in years, the night featured two memorable knockouts (Jesus Soto Karass over Andre Berto and Keith Thurman over Diego Chaves) as well as a Fight of the Year candidate with the bruising battle between Omar Figueroa and Nihito Arakawa. July 2013 will be remembered for its savage action.

A Damn Good Month:
Tomasz Adamek: Fighting for the first time in 2013, Adamek dominated substitute opponent Dominick Guinn to win an easy decision. Guinn offered only token resistance although Adamek did look spry on his feet and worked well behind his jab. Adamek could potentially face Bryant Jennings later on in the year, a fight that would be far more meaningful than his stay-busy affair against Guinn.
Khabib Allakhverdiev:  Allakhverdiev had a nice showing against former junior welterweight titlist Souleymane M'Baye. Scoring two knockdowns, Allakhverdiev won via 11th-round stoppage with powerful straight left hands and right hooks. Working with trainer John David Jackson, Allakhverdiev really sits down on his shots well and can hurt opponents with either hand. He's ready for the better fighters at 140, but he's going to have to let his hands go more frequently.
Nihito Arakawa: Surviving two knockdowns and countless power shots to the body and head from Omar Figueroa, Arakawa won over boxing fans by coming forward and continuing to throw punches. Arakawa lost the fight widely on the cards, but he demonstrated a superhuman display of intestinal fortitude that won't soon be forgotten. Figueroa-Arakawa was one of the most savage fights of recent memory. Here's hoping that Arakawa makes a full recovery.
Kell Brook: With an eighth-round stoppage, Brook took care of business against Carson Jones in their rematch. He dropped Jones in the second and dominated the first four rounds. But then he took his foot off of the gas, giving Jones opportunities to come forward and land wild right hands. Brook went back on the offensive to start the eighth and the fight was stopped later in the round. The official transcript shows a lopsided victory but it was a disjointed performance from Brook, who still has issues with confidence and his ring identity.
Dereck Chisora: Earning the best win of his career, Chisora knocked out Malik Scott in the sixth round with a cuffing right hand. It was a close fight prior to the knockout with Scott boxing well in spots and Chisora scoring along the ropes and inside. This bout will most likely be remembered for referee Phil Edwards' phantom 10-count, but give Chisora credit for coming forward, applying pressure and taking Scott out of his comfort zone.
Juan Estrada: Making his first flyweight defense, Estrada bested tough challenger Milan Melindo to win a wide decision. Estrada really came on in the second half of the fight by using his jab and movement. As Melindo started to fall behind and take more chances, Estrada capitalized on these opportunities by unleashing his full arsenal of power punches. He landed a beautiful counter right hand to drop Melindo in the 11th. Athletically gifted, well-schooled and cerebral, Estrada is quickly becoming one of the best fighters in boxing.
Omar Figueroa: Figueroa couldn't finish Nihito Arakawa, but he did practically everything short of that. He dropped Arakawa twice, pulverized his body and battered his head with power shots. Figueroa had to survive Arakawa's pressure and relentless aggression to win; he rose to challenge and won legions of boxing fans with his performance. Figueroa looks to be a big player in the lightweight division. It might help him to work on defense and head movement.
Golden Boy: Although the triple-header headlined by Berto-Soto Karass fight lacked curb appeal, Knockout Kings II featured the best action of any card in 2013. With a slugfest between Keith Thurman and Diego Chaves and all-out war between Omar Figueroa and Nihito Arakawa, Knockout Kings II provided a truly memorable night of boxing. The main event was excellent as well with Andre Berto trying to rally with one arm before his demise in the 12th round. Give Golden Boy credit for creating a wonderful card that showcased excellent matchmaking and faith in previously obscure fighters (Chaves, Arakawa).
Evgeny Gradovich: Gradovich continued to showcase his considerable skills in the featherweight division by winning a wide decision victory over Mauricio Munoz. Featuring a high work rate, a large arsenal and solid ring intelligence, Gradovich should make many exciting fights in the next few years. He needs to clean up some technical flaws though (leaning in, admiring his work, etc.). 
John David Jackson: The former middleweight titlist from the '90s has become an excellent trainer. Two of his best fighters were in action recently – Sergey Kovalev and Khabib Allakhverdiev. In Allakhverdiev's fight against M'Baye, Jackson rightly admonished his fighter for not being busy enough. Once Allakhverdiev started to move his hands more, he showed his true class in the fight. Jackson has done an excellent job in teaching his boxers good balance, the need to sit down on their power punches and to the value of featuring a large arsenal of shots. He's one of the trainers on the rise.
John Molina: Former lightweight title challenger Molina was being handily outboxed by Mickey Bey heading into the 10th round of their fight. But in that last frame, Molina caught Bey with a left hook and, as the seconds wound down in the match, finished him with a barrage of power shots. It was one of the most improbable victories of the year and the type of comeback that makes boxing such a compelling sport.
Edwin Rodriguez: Rodriguez made the biggest statement of his career with a first-round blitzing of Denis Grachev. Throwing power punches with abandon, specifically crushing left hooks, Rodriguez knocked Grachev down twice in the first round leading to the stoppage. Rodriguez finally put together the type of offensive performance that validated his considerable hype.
Andy Ruiz: Ruiz won an interesting crossroads heavyweight fight against fellow unbeaten boxer Joe Hanks. Ruiz ended the fight and the fourth and is now in play for something much bigger in the division. Not having an impressive body, Ruiz does have real power and considerable hand speed. At just 23, he makes an interesting addition to the heavyweight division.
Billy Joe Saunders: One of the top British boxing prospects, Saunders scored a virtual shutout victory over undefeated fighter Gary O'Sullivan. Saunders features excellent boxing skills, a high ring I.Q. and a wide variety of punches. He'll be back in the ring against another undefeated young fighter, John Ryder, in September.
Lee Selby: Facing perhaps the most difficult opponent of his career in Viorel Simion, Selby wisely boxed and used ring generalship to mostly neutralize his hard charging opponent. Selby's defense was especially sharp in the first half of the fight and he showed some nice, new added dimensions in the match. He did fade a little in the last few rounds, but he was never in serious trouble.
Zou Shiming: Shiming demonstrated more of an offensive temperament against Jesus Ortega than he did in his debut fight earlier this year. Shiming does have an array of boxing skills but he appears to be feather-fisted. He also got hit with a few hard punches but he was able to mostly cruise to the sixth-round victory.
Showtime: Showtime struck gold with its Knockout Kings II card. Paying a fraction of what many of its top cards cost, Showtime delivered a night of spectacular action that featured two excellent young fighters on the rise (Thurman and Figueroa) and a solid upset performance by a determined veteran (Soto Karass). The network and Golden Boy have done a wonderful job in the last few months of delivering exciting fight cards.
Jesus Soto Karass: Soto Karass featured swarming pressure and a huge punch output to take control against Andre Berto. He hurt Berto in the second and fourth with straight right hands and short uppercuts. After Berto came on in the latter part of the fight, Soto Karass ended things with a stunning counter left hook in the 12th. It was a career-best win for the veteran and sets up another big payday for him later in the year.
Curtis Stevens: Stevens delivered a Knockout of the Year candidate with his crushing left hook in the first round against Saul Roman. Having already dropped Roman earlier in the round, Stevens' finishing punch sent Roman sprawling across the canvas; no count was needed.
Tony Thompson: At first, the rematch against David Price scarcely resembled the initial fight. Thompson was dropped in the second round from a big right hand and Price seemed to be in control. However, Thompson rallied with power shots and caginess and turned the fight in his favor. His pressure and heavy hands led to Price falling apart in the ring, with Thompson scoring a stunning fifth-round knockout. He also provided one of the best post-fight interviews in the sport's history. Thompson returns to the ring later this month against Kubrat Pulev in a heavyweight eliminator.
Keith Thurman: Thurman came out swinging against fellow banger Diego Chaves, but early in the fight it was Chaves who landed the better punches. Thurman recalibrated by the fifth round and started to do much better in the fight by working off of his jab and incorporating movement. In the ninth, he landed a vicious left hook to the body that dropped Chaves. Thurman was able to end the fight a round later. It was a very solid performance from Thurman, who is now ready to face some of the bigger names in the welterweight division.
Not The Best Month, Not The Worst Month: 
Juan Carlos Burgos: Facing late replacement Yakubu (Prince) Amidu and moving up to lightweight, Burgos shined early with his high volume and boxing skills. However, Amidu's solid counter power shots started to have an effect in the fight's second half. Burgos wound up with a split draw, his second draw of the year (his first was against Rocky Martinez). Burgos clearly lacks a punch at lightweight and despite his high volume, he provides many opportunities for his opponents by not getting out of the pocket fast enough or using his legs to avoid trouble along the ropes.
Diego Chaves: Chaves made a big impression in his U.S. debut against Keith Thurman. He packs a devastating right hand and showed an impressive chin. As Thurman started to incorporate more technical elements, Chaves struggled to initiate offense. He was stopped in the 10th round, but with his punch, he should make a nice addition to welterweight division.
Laurence Cole: Cole, a Texas-based referee who has been involved in a number of controversial fights, made an excellent determination in the sixth round of Figueroa-Arakawa by awarding a knockdown to Figueroa after Arakawa was momentarily defenseless along the ropes. Cole could've been justified in stopping the fight, but understanding that the match was competitive, he let it continue. However, later in the fight, Cole would've been more than justified in stopping the fight because of the brutal beating that Arakawa was taking. It was a tough call because Arakawa never stopped competing, but Cole, in my opinion, let the fight go on too long.
Billy Dib: Dib toughed out a fight against a surprisingly game Mike Oliver. In addition, he had to overcome hometown ref Mike Ortega, who deducted two points for questionable low blows. Although Dib didn't get the early stoppage that he was gunning for or look particularly dominant, his win keeps him in the featherweight title picture.
Javier Fortuna: Stepping up to face the best opponent of his career in Luis Franco, Fortuna struggled to consistently land. His wide shots were often greeted by Franco's counters. Fortuna was lucky to wind up with a draw and his performance demonstrated that he lacks a Plan B when the knockout doesn't come.
Luis Franco: After passing up a more promising opportunity against Billy Dib earlier in the year, Franco agreed to face Fortuna, a fighter with perhaps a more imposing set of offensive skills. To my eyes, Franco clearly won the fight with his precise counters, ring generalship and defense. He was only awarded a draw and his tough luck in the pro ranks (he lost a debatable decision to Mauricio Munoz) continues.
Milan Melindo: Flyweight Melindo started off very well in his first title shot against Juan Estrada. He featured excellent hand speed, solid footwork and quick combinations. As Estrada boxed more from the outside, Melindo had trouble landing consistently. In the later rounds, Melindo took more chances but he didn't have the firepower to compete with Estrada. Melindo has considerable skills and it wouldn't surprise me if he wins a title in the near future.
Is This Month Over Yet?
Andre Berto: Switching to defensive-minded trainer Virgil Hunter, Berto immediately faced the same set of problems against Jesus Soto Karass that he did when he fought Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz: he was too easy to hit. After getting banged around for four rounds and hurting his right shoulder, Berto started to work his way back into the fight in the second half. That progress was thwarted in the final round when he was dropped by a menacing left hook, leading to a TKO loss. Berto needs to take a step down in class and work on his myriad defensive problems before he can again be a factor in the welterweight division.
Mickey Bey: Having a big lead on the scorecards as he entered the final round against John Molina, Bey almost dropped Molina early in the frame. Later in the round, Bey got caught backing straight up with a left hook. Bey didn't tie up effectively and Molina unloaded with power shots forcing ref Vic Drakulich to stop the fight. It was a huge loss for Bey, who trains out of the Mayweather Gym and was suspended earlier in the year for PEDs. He'll have to work his way back into bigger fights.
Eddie Chambers: Moving down to cruiserweight, Chambers, in the lead up to his fight with Thabiso Mchunu, literally thought that his opponent was beneath him, constantly referring to him on Twitter as "a midget" and proclaiming an easy night's work. When the fight finally arrived, Chambers was the definition of lifeless and Mchunu boxed rings around him to pick up a decisive victory. With recent losses in the heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions, it's not clear where Chambers goes next.
Denis Grachev: Grachev was a trendy pick to defeat Edwin Rodriguez last month with his constant aggression and sneaky power shots. Instead, he didn't make it out of the first round as Rodriguez jumped on him with power shots. Grachev had no answer for Rodriguez's left hook.
Joe Hanks: A low-profile American heavyweight with punching power, Hanks took a big step up in class against Andy Ruiz, and his chin couldn't withstand Ruiz's power shots; he fell in four rounds. Not aligned with a big promoter, Hanks may have to resume toiling around in relative obscurity until he gets another shot at a decent opponent.
Carson Jones: After coming close to pulling off a big upset last year against Kell Brook, Jones returned to England for the rematch. Instead of a similar competitive showing, Jones fought listlessly. Brook banged him around during the first four rounds and scored a TKO in the 8th. Jones didn't like the stoppage but he wasn't winning rounds or scoring enough to make a convincing argument for the fight to continue.
Main Events: Let's talk about process vs. results. Anyone can have a card turn out to be a dud; it's part of boxing. However, Main Event's tripleheader featured a junior middleweight who often gets knocked out (Saul Roman) moving up to face a former super middleweight with a punch (Curtis Stevens) and a heavyweight fighter who hadn't been relevant in half a decade (Dominick Guinn) facing one of the top-ten guys in the division (Tomasz Adamek). In addition, leading up to the card, Main Events released a cynical press release, proclaiming Eddie Chambers as the best cruiserweight in the world, despite the fact that he hadn't actually competed in the division. In terms of dubious hyperbole, that press release takes the cake, not an easy award to win in boxing. Oh yeah, the card turned out to suck.
Malik Scott: Scott did a number of things right in his fight against Dereck Chisora. He boxed well, used movement and frustrated Chisora with his jab. However, Scott made several curious decisions. First, he insisted on grappling with Chisora on the inside, although Chisora was the bigger fighter. He also spent too much time on the ropes, one of the few areas where the slower Chisora could do damage. Most memorably, after being knocked down in the sixth, Scott waited until after "nine" to start rising; he was counted out. Scott's promoter, Goossen-Tutor has filed a protest of the knockout ruling, but Scott's lack of urgency helped lead to the questionable result.
Bad Reffing:
Phil Edwards: In order for a KO ruling to be correct, the referee must physically count to 10. We are still waiting to hear the number "10" as Edwards stopped the Chisora-Scott fight before ever reaching that number. Again, Edwards could have waved off the fight without administering the count indicating a TKO (which also would have been a mistake), but he ruled a KO. Edwards didn't perform his duties properly.
Mike Ortega: Ortega, a Connecticut-based referee, was more than kind to Mike Oliver, a fighter from the same state, in his bout against Billy Dib. Penalizing Dib two points for questionable low blows, Ortega made a fairly one-sided fight into something more competitive due to his blatant homerism.
Good Broadcasting
Paulie Malignaggi: Malignaggi was tremendous on the Knockout Kings card, correctly imploring Thurman to box more, wondering why Figueroa didn't incorporate more defense or switch his strategy and illustrating why Berto may have had success in the second half of his fight against Soto Karass because he had to think less. Malignaggi was there to call the action, not pump up his own ring accomplishments or drive a corporate/personal agenda. Malignaggi has fast become one of the best fight analysts in boxing.
Bad Broadcasting
Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore: Perhaps the classic example of broadcasters not watching a fight. Luis Franco seemed to be having the better of Javier Fortuna. He landed more. The ESPN audience awarded more rounds to Franco throughout the fight. Yet Atlas scored the fight 99-91 for Fortuna, talking about his aggressiveness and heart, irrespective of his inability to land that cleanly. Tessitore, with the punch stats in front of him, insisted that the numbers were close, even when Franco had demonstrable edges. After the scores were announced, Atlas went on his obligatory rant about the quality of judges. Yet, I wish his bosses gave him a similar dressing down for his failure to accurately depict the action of the fight and scoring on auto pilot. It was a wretched performance from the pair.

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