Sunday, September 29, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Chavez and Stevenson

Nothing like a good robbery to get the juices flowing, and make no mistake, Brian Vera got a rusty shaft against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on Saturday. The official scores were 96-94 (Carla Caiz), 97-93 (Marty Denkin) and 98-92 (Gwen Adair). I had it 97-93 for Vera and Steve Weisfeld, HBO's excellent unofficial judge, saw Vera winning by two points. If you squint hard enough, you perhaps could give Chavez the fight 96-94. He landed the harder shots when he decided to throw them. However, Caiz had a very bizarre card, with Vera winning the first four rounds and Chavez taking the last six. Rounds eight and nine in particular were such clear Vera frames that one has to question the competence and/or propriety of Caiz. Despite her reasonable score on the surface, Caiz's card reeks of ineptitude, at best, or underhandedness.
The panel of judges for this fight wasn't representative of California's finest. Adair has been judging in the state for decades, but over the last five years, her biggest assignments have been Salgado-Mendez II and Quillin-Wright. If you think about how many significant fights have been in California during that period of time, it's clear that Adair isn't a judge who is often placed on the state's "A" Squad.
Denkin is one who judges tons of big fights. While I wouldn't necessarily call him particularly special at his craft, he's usually reliable. This fight was a huge black mark against his judging career and I haven't found anything in his recent record as egregious as his score from this weekend.
Caiz is an up-and-coming judge who works a lot but has not had a lot of high-profile experience. Saturday's fight was the biggest assignment in her career, and she blew that to smithereens.
Even if all the judges for Chavez-Vera were on the up-and-up last night (perhaps a leap of faith), the California State Athletic Commission didn't do Denkin and Caiz any favors. Denkin had to score 34 rounds before the main event and Caiz was given 23 frames. Getting on my soapbox for a moment, the best way to ensure quality scores for a main event is not to overwork judges on the undercard. Having been ringside on many occasions for large fight cards, I know how taxing scoring multiple fights can be. I only like to score three or four fights at most because I know that my energy level and concentration starts to wane. Judging at the top level involves a tremendous amount of focus and I don't think that assigning judges to do five and six fights a night is the best way to get optimal scores for an important match. The famous Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara judging debacle was another example of the three judges scoring a half-dozen fights prior to the main event. It's a practice that shouldn't be permitted for top main events.
From running major deficits to having a shaky lineup of judges and referees, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has been in turmoil over the last half-decade. The Commission installed Andy Foster as its new Executive Officer in late 2012. Foster, who had a significant presence in attracting MMA fights while in Georgia, was charged with cleaning up the operations of the Commission, bringing more events to the state and minimizing controversy.
It's safe to say that Foster failed at implementing the mission of the CSAC this week. On Saturday, Foster presided over a contest of dubious origins where one combatant (Chavez) had no intention of making the contracted weight and the upper bounds of the weight limit jumped up five pounds less than 72-hours before the fight. If one of the Commission's jobs is to ensure fighter safety, then Foster failed without any qualification necessary. True, no one gets paid if the fight is cancelled, but at a certain point, ethics or principles must come into play. In my opinion, this was the worst performance by a commission since the drug testing fiasco by New York prior to Garcia-Morales II.
Lost amid the judging controversy and Chavez's indifference to professionalism was a fighter who put forward an excellent performance and took a needless loss. Vera brought the fight to Chavez on Saturday, featuring an excellent work rate and a consistent output. There was nothing overly special about his performance technically, but he was fighting for his life and deserved the decision.
Coming into the bout, Vera was on a nice win streak that included victories over Sergio Mora and Serhiy Dzinziruk. Originally contracted to fight Chavez at 162 lbs. this summer, Vera saw the weight limit march up to 168 and then 173. To say that the elements were against Vera is a big understatement. The network, commission, promoters and sport all want to remain in the lucrative Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. business. Chavez delivers ratings, (usually) puts butts in the seats, supplies ample drama for boxing fans and, of course, has the built-in boxing royalty name.
Yet Vera fought undaunted. Following a risky but brilliant game plan from trainer Ronnie Shields, Vera carved up Chavez on the inside, throwing quick combinations with his jab, straight right hand and left hook. And while Chavez was never badly hurt during the fight (he has a great chin) Vera connected with solid shots throughout the night.
I have often been critical of Shields. Specifically, I never liked how he handled his corners. Instead of a top trainer like Emanuel Steward who provided his fighters with one or two salient points between rounds, Shields often overloaded his boxers with 16 different instructions. His lack of calm in the corner cannot help his charges. He still did that with Vera on Saturday, but his overall plusses in the preparation for this fight outweighed this one drawback.
Shields definitely had Vera in wonderful condition on Saturday. Vera, a fighter who had been down more than a half-dozen times in his career, took many thunderous shots from a near-heavyweight and stayed on his feet.
In addition, Shields suggested that Vera win the fight in the lion's den, up close where Chavez usually does his best work. Shields correctly figured that Chavez wouldn't have the energy or conditioning to want to fight at a fast pace. It was clear that Shields and Vera worked on how to best Chavez on the inside. Ultimately, Vera had to keep his hands moving and not let Chavez use his body to lean on him. In addition, Vera prohibited Chavez from tying up almost the whole fight, which is another area where Chavez gradually grinds down opponents. Vera looked just as sharp in the tenth round as he did in the first.
Sadly, Vera lost in the biggest opportunity of his career. In a perfect world, HBO would give him a shot at a rematch or another decent name at 160 or 168 lbs. And to be fair, Jim Lampley was quite clear in his disdain of the judges' scorecards. However, there are no guarantees in boxing. Yes, Vera made an extra six-figures once the weight kept going up, but he was denied an opportunity for far bigger things in the sport by the powers that be.
As for Chavez, it was genuinely shocking to see him beaten on the inside. Usually, he's one of the best in-fighters in the sport, relying on his body and left hook to cause damage. On Saturday, it seemed that he lacked the energy or desire to mix it up in the trenches. He was content to go for the knockout, throwing one shot at a time. His work rate was awful, barely throwing 30 punches a round and hardly featuring any combinations. Surprisingly, he had the most success with his straight right hand – a punch that had previously trailed his left hook and left uppercut as an effective offensive weapon.
In addition, Chavez spent much of the fight complaining to referee Lou Moret about fouls, specifically head butts and low blows. Although Vera strayed low a few times, these instances weren't particularly egregious. Yet Chavez would literally stop action after one of these fouls and talk to the ref. It was a clear sign of a fighter who lacked focus.
There was a time from early 2011 to mid-2012 where I felt that Chavez was really improving as a fighter. He knocked out a quality opponent in Andy Lee and impressively dominated Peter Manfredo. In those contests, he exhibited traits of an actual fighter – someone who gave a shit about his career and tried to maximize his own potential. But the training debacle prior to the Sergio Martinez fight was a huge step back. After that match, he failed a second drug test in Nevada and received a lengthy suspension. His downward spiral continued with this match.  
Chavez still did some good things in the ring against Vera. He showed excellent accuracy with his right hand and good pop, but he was a fraction of what he could be. His stamina was abominable and he fought with little urgency. Ultimately, he embarrassed himself and boxing with the lead up to the fight, and his performance in the ring did nothing to counteract that narrative.
In one of the more impressive performance of the year, light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson dominated former champion Tavoris Cloud over seven one-sided rounds – Cloud’s corner stopped the fight prior to the eighth.  In his ascension up the ranks, Stevenson featured some of the most devastating power that the sport had to offer. However, on Saturday, Stevenson showcased a multi-dimensional attack that included boxing, defense, punch placement and power that led to an easy victory.
Having clearly studied Cloud's most recent fights against Gabriel Campillo and Bernard Hopkins, Stevenson and his trainer, Javan "Sugar" Hill, realized how much movement could thwart Cloud's success. Stevenson implemented the game plan wonderfully and featured lateral and up-and-back movement; Cloud was never able to get untracked. Through the seven rounds of the fight, Cloud averaged just over five landed punches a round, just an awful percentage. Instead of the intended shootout between two heavy hitters in the light heavyweight division, the fight was essentially no more than a turkey shoot for Stevenson. Cloud lacked the technical skills, defense or intelligence to stop Stevenson from unleashing his arsenal.
Stevenson was far more than his straight left hand too. His right jab was punishing and his sneaky left uppercut caused damage throughout the fight. As the match progressed, Cloud was bleeding from both eyes from clean Stevenson punches. Adonis also went to the body very well with jabs and straight lefts. It was a wonderfully well-rounded performance.
Remember, Stevenson was a super middleweight prior to this year. Jumping at an opportunity to face light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, Stevenson carried his power into the new division. And now with Saturday's performance, he established himself as something much more than a one-trick pony.
Stevenson next has a mandatory against Tony Bellew, a limited fighter from England who doesn't have a whole lot going for him except being tough. Unless Stevenson gets caught, Bellew is an opponent who will make Stevenson look spectacular. In 2014, the real fun will continue. Stevenson has two very worthy opponents, with fellow destroyer Sergey Kovalev (whom Stevenson didn't seem eager to face during his post-fight interview) and the immortal Bernard Hopkins (with Hopkins on Showtime, perhaps a difficult proposition, but not impossible). 
Already 36, Stevenson seems to have a lot in common with Sergio Martinez. Both southpaws had relatively late starts to their professional careers and were overlooked on the boxing scene by the sport's biggest promoters and media. However, they both possessed significant power and had the athleticism and ring intelligence to suggest that they could become top talents in the sport. Martinez already reached that pinnacle; the next 12-18 months will show us just how good Stevenson can really be. He's certainly on my shortlist for 2013 Fighter of the Year.
As for Cloud, his inactivity and difficult slate of opponents finally caught up with him. After defeating a still-serviceable Glen Johnson and knocking out Yusaf Mack, I had high hopes for him. He was an energetic, young fighter with heavy hands. However, his career stalled. Working with Don King, Cloud most often found himself on the shelf.
Watching Cloud on Saturday, he reminded me of Jermain Taylor, another good, young fighter who may never have recovered from fighting too many difficult opponents too early in his career. Campillo and Hopkins were both slicksters that gave Cloud fits (he survived with a disputed win against Campillo). Against Stevenson, Cloud's confidence looked shot. He had no plan of attack and it was if he had forgotten everything that once made him a champion. Cloud was too out-of-position to let his hands go and he had no idea of how to close the distance. Even on the inside, Stevenson consistently beat him to the punch.
Perhaps Cloud looked really good coming up the ranks against come-forward, straight-line fighters, but facing the division's top talents, a champion must conquer an array of styles; on Saturday, Cloud couldn't even muster a single round in his column. With so much time spent switching promoters, managers and trainers, it can only be estimated how much crucial preparation and development time that Cloud lost over the years.
Chalk Cloud up to another fighter who fell short of reaching his true potential, but don't just blame the external politics of boxing. Cloud made decisions that hindered his career. He dropped out of big fights, switched trainers with frequency and was often reticent to promote himself. But he won his belt and made some decent money. As tragedies go in boxing, this one ranks very low on the list, but it's still worth mentioning.

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:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Boxinghead Battle Update 9-22-13

Here are the complete standings for the 2013 second half-season of the Boxinghead Battle, the weekly prediction league featuring boxing media and amateur fight fans. The second half of the season runs through the end of the November. The top eight finishers (and potentially more, if there are ties) qualify for the playoffs. Those who qualify for the playoffs will be included with the eight winners from the first half-season of the contest to determine the ultimate winner of the 2013 Boxinghead Battle.  

All contestants started at "0" as of July 1st. Currently, Joe Santoliquito of Ring Magazine is in the lead at +5. For the complete rules of the Boxinghead Battle, click here. 
To view the final standings from the first half-season of 2013, click here.

The second half-season has 129 players. Media members have their affiliations in parenthesis. The complete rankings are below:

Abramowitz, Adam (saturday night boxing) 0
Abrams, Mark (15 rounds) -1
Abramson, Mitch (boxing scene) -1
Aldana, Jesus +1
Allan, Tommy (boxing asylum) 0
Alvarez, Luis 0
Andre, Chris +1
Anjuum, Mohammad -1
Barry, Alex 0
Benz, CG -1
Bivins, Ryan (bad left hook) +1
Blanc Jr., Eddie -2
Boxing Advocate +2
Boxing Mouth 0
Braden 0
Brown, Anthony -1
Burton, Ryan (boxing scene) -1
Campbell, Brian (espn) -1
Cervantes, Martin +2
Christ, Scott (bad left hook) -3
Christensen, Cole +1
Coppinger, Mike (ring) -2
Coreschi, Christopher 0
Craze, Tom (bad left hook) 0
Daily Bruise -1
Daniel 0
Donny Baseball (boxing asylum) 0
Dooley, Terrence (boxing scene) 0
Donovan, Jake (boxing scene) +1
Enriquez, Hernan -1
Fake Larry Merchant +1
Ferguson, Billy (fighthype) -4
Fischer, Douglass (ring) -3
Foley, James (bad left hook) -1
Frauenheim, Norm (15 rounds) -1
Freeman, Jeff (KO Digest) -1
Fruman, Andrew (bad left hook) 0
Gaibon, Ernest (boxing scene) 0
Groves, Lee (ring) +1
Gray, Gary -1
Gray, Tom (ring) -1
Greisman, David (boxing scene) +2
Guevera, Ricky -1
Harrison, Joe +2
Hart, Andy 0
Hassan, Sitbul -1
Hegarty, Lucy -1
Hunt, Charlie +2
Hurley, John +2
Hussain, Imran +1
Idec, Keith (Bergen Record) +3
Indica Ali 0
Iole, Kevin (yahoo) +2
Iron Mike Gallego -1
Javan, Navid 0
Jeet Vyas +1
Jessy A 0
Jewish Boxing +1
Jurgen -1
Kang, Jay Caspian (grantland) -1
King, James +3
Kitchen, Kory (bad left hook) 0
Kudgis, Tim (ATG radio) +1
Landa, Hans +2
Lampin, David -2
Lee, David 0
Lewis, Gabe (boxing asylum) +1
Linus 0
Lobach, David (boxing asylum) 0
Lukie Boxing +3
Marotta, Rich (NBHOF) +1
Maquinana, Ryan (boxing scene) 0
Marino, Gordon (wall street journal) 0
Massingale, Alan (ring) +1
Matt D (boxing asylum) +2
McCarson, Kelsey (bleacher report) -1
McClintock, Alex (tqbr) -1
Mitchell, Paul 0
Mojica, Matthew 0
Morrison, Anthony -2
Montoya, Gabe (max boxing) 0
Morris, Alex (boxing asylum) +4
MTP for Three -1
Mulvaney, Kieran (espn) -1
Myhre, James +1
Nadjowski, Richard (boxing scene) -2
Nicholls, Scott -2
Oakes, Dave (bad left hook) +2
Oakland, Marioso -1
Obermayer, Jack (fight fax) -1
Olson, Hans -1
Ortega, Mark (ring) 0
Paterson, Andy (boxing asylum) 0
Pawel 0
Pina, Aris (compubox) -2
Poplawski, Ray +2
Pratt, Harry -1
Rafael, Dan (espn) 0
Raspnati, John (doghouse boxing) 0
Rawson, Paul -2
Richardson, Matt (fight news) +3
Robinson, Chris (boxing scene) +1
Rold, Cliff (boxing scene) 0
Rosenthal, Michael (ring) +2
Salazar, Francisco (boxing scene) -2
Salazar, Victor (boxing voice) -2
Sanchez, Eduardo 0
Sandoval, Luis (boxing scene) -1
Santiago, Manuel +1
Santoliquito, Joe (ring) +5
Satterfield, Lem (ring) +1
Smith, Tim (ring) -1
Songalia, Ryan (ring) +2
Soucy, Rob (boxing talk) -2
Spahn, Robert -1
Stapleton, Kieran 0
Starks, Tim (tqbr) +4
S.T.E.E.L. -1
Stretty Ender -2
Sukachev Alexy (boxing scene) +1
Talbott, Steven +2
Thomas, Eddie 0
Two Piece Boxing +1
Velasco, Darren +1
Velin, Bob (USA Today) +4
Wainwright, Anson (ring) -1
Ward, Kurt (boxing asylum) 0
Webb, Sam -1

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, September 20, 2013

Pound-for-Pound Update 9-20-13

With Floyd Mayweather defeating Saul Alvarez with ease and Danny Garcia scoring a unanimous decision win over Lucas Matthysse, there have been a number of changes to the Saturday Night Boxing pound-for-pound list. The updates are below: 
Vitali Klitschko: It's been over a year since Klitschko's last fight and he has nothing scheduled for the rest of the 2013. Klitschko has talked about fighting one more time next year before retiring. But due to inactivity, Klitschko, who was ranked #9, drops out of the SNB Rankings.
Danny Garcia: Garcia earned a unanimous decision over Lucas Matthysse, the previously ranked #20 fighter in the SNB pound-for-pound list. Garcia scored a knockdown and had a big second half to cement the best win of his career. Garcia moves up from #16 to #9.
Saul Alvarez: Despite some shoddy scorecards, Alvarez won no more than two rounds against Mayweather. Alvarez failed to perform as well as recent Mayweather opponents such as Miguel Cotto and Oscar de la Hoya. Alvarez, who was previously ranked #17, exits the Rankings.
Lucas Matthysse: Matthysse had some strong moments in the fight against Garcia and won five rounds on two of the judges' scorecards. However, he fell short in a winnable fight and he now has to get back in line for a title opportunity. Previously ranked #20, Matthysse also exits the Rankings.
Gennady Golovkin: Golovkin has made six defenses of his middleweight title. More importantly, he has dominated increasingly better opposition. It's now been 14 fights and 5 years since he has had a fight go to the scorecards. He enters the Rankings at #18. 
Leo Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz, one of the more promising young fighters in North America, recently knocked out Victor Terrazas to earn the best win of his career. Santa Cruz has now picked up belts at bantamweight and junior featherweight. As he has moved up to the world level, he continues to dominate his competition. He makes his debut on the SNB Top-20 list at #19.
Shinsuke Yamanaka: Japan's Yamanaka has now made four defenses of his bantamweight belt, including victories over former titleholders Vic Darchinyan and Tomas Rojas. Last month, Yamanaka knocked out lightly regarded Jose Nieves in the first round. Yamanaka, a southpaw, has excellent power and continues to improve. He joins the Rankings at #20.
With Saul Alvarez and Vitali Klitschko exiting the Rankings, Takashi Uchiyama and Adrien Broner both move up two spots to #16 and #17, respectively. Here is the complete SNB Top-20 Fighters list:  
  1. Floyd Mayweather
  2. Andre Ward
  3. Juan Manuel Marquez
  4. Sergio Martinez
  5. Manny Pacquiao
  6. Wladimir Klitschko
  7. Guillermo Rigondeaux
  8. Carl Froch
  9. Danny Garcia
  10. Nonito Donaire
  11. Tim Bradley
  12. Roman Gonzalez
  13. Bernard Hopkins
  14. Anselmo Moreno
  15. Juan Estrada
  16. Takashi Uchiyama
  17. Adrien Broner
  18. Gennady Golovkin
  19. Leo Santa Cruz
  20. Shinsuke Yamanaka

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:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Mayweather-Alvarez and The One

In the ninth round of the Floyd Mayweather-Saul "Canelo" Alvarez fight, I was startled by the different types of punches with which Mayweather initiated offense. I counted a jab, a straight right hand to the body, a left hook, a straight right to the head and a right uppercut. The majority of these punches landed and several were followed by quick combinations that completed flummoxed Canelo. He didn't know where the shots were coming from and he no longer could mount a responsible defense.
Earlier in the fight – in the seventh – there was a wonderful sequence where Alvarez, with his back to the ropes, was waiting to counter Mayweather. But Floyd kept his distance expertly. He hit Alvarez with a right hand to the head, a right hand to the body, a short left hook and then he got out of range. His punches were sharp and he was completely composed.
Between the sixth and seventh rounds, Showtime broadcaster Steve Farhood was talking about his scorecard, which had Mayweather far ahead. He said that he didn't know why Alvarez was attempting to try and outbox the best boxer in the sport from the center of the ring.
Throughout the fight, Alvarez was beaten strategically and tactically by Mayweather. Electing to trade in the pocket for most of the fight, Alvarez tasted a lot of leather and hit a lot of shoulders and elbows. At various points, he tried to win a jabbing contest at mid-range against a guy with superior hand speed and accuracy. Once Mayweather started moving more in the second half of the fight, Alvarez didn't have the skill required in cutting off the ring. When Mayweather did go to the ropes, it's because he decided that's where the action should take place; Floyd was the one dictating all of the terms. At times, Alvarez was nothing more than a bemused spectator in his own fight.
Yes, Alvarez showed adequate hand speed and connected with a few solid left hooks, jabs and a straight right hand or two, but there was nothing consistent or sustained. He lacked the technical ability, ring intelligence or athleticism to take charge of the fight. Whatever tactics he tried, Mayweather was already a step ahead of him.
I'm very curious to know what trainer Eddy Reynoso's game plan for Canelo was. Maybe the plan was for Alvarez not to overcommit early and quickly adjust after the first few rounds. Perhaps Alvarez was going to grind Mayweather down over 12 rounds? I don't know; I'm guessing here.  Ultimately, I didn't see any type of coherent strategy from Alvarez's corner. The Mayweather team, from fighter to corner, was just better in every dimension.
Alvarez will have to learn how to consistently initiate offense when facing counterpunchers. Against Austin Trout and now Mayweather, Alvarez, one of the best combination punchers in the sport, mostly threw only one punch at a time. He needs to realize that not every fighter will come right at him. Alvarez must be more consistent with his jab. His footwork and punch output also need to improve. If I were on his team, I would work on agility drills. His lateral movement needs to be sharper and he should be throwing 60 punches a round.
I scored the bout 118-110 for Mayweather, giving Alvarez the 4th and 8th rounds. However, in both cases, I thought those were frames in which Floyd decided to lay back and take some time off; Alvarez was only the winner by default. I thought that all of the judges' cards were too kind to Alvarez. The 117-111 and 116-112 tallies were barely tolerable. By now, C.J. Ross' 114-114 tally already lives in infamy as one of the worst scorecards in recent boxing history.  
Alvarez's performance wasn't a wipeout loss though. There were many things to build off of. His defense was very solid at times, especially early. He has excellent countering instincts even though a number of his best shots didn't land. He also carried himself well in the ring. Certainly Mayweather was the far better fighter, but Alvarez didn't let the big moment overwhelm him in the way that it had for other opponents of Floyd.
However, I wish that Alvarez would've taken more chances earlier in the fight. He rarely threw his uppercut (which supports his inability to control distance) and he very seldom pressed the action. Alvarez tried to be compact with his shots, but sometimes the key to having success against Floyd is to mix up the type of punches thrown. I would've liked to have seen a looping right hand once in a while or a lead uppercut. Perhaps Alvarez was too uncomfortable to take those types of risks, but being cautious and patiently waiting to catch Mayweather is not a winning strategy.
What else needs to be said about Floyd's performance? To the surprise of many, he ignored his considerable advantage in foot speed early and decided to take box Canelo in the middle of the ring. His jab was incisive and he mixed in his arsenal, especially his left hook and uppercuts, far faster than he has done in recent fights.
By the second half of the match, Mayweather's movement, feints and punch variety were too much for Alvarez. Mayweather completely dominated a gifted, undefeated champion who entered the ring two weight classes above him. I'm not sure where Mayweather goes next when he returns, but it's going to be a tough to find an opponent who has a legitimate chance to win; Mayweather's that good.
One broadcast note: I thought that Showtime's coverage was excellent on Saturday with both Al Bernstein and Paulie Malignaggi having strong performances on the call. In a perfect world, I wish that the Showtime producers would have shown more of the corner work between rounds. By my count, we got maybe a round-and-a-half of Floyd Mayweather Sr. throughout the fight. Now I know that he can be tough to understand, but finding out what goes on in the corner of the sport's best fighter is intriguing to me. In addition, there wasn't enough emphasis on Canelo's corner. Yes, Reynoso was calm, but as viewers we didn't hear nearly enough.
Showtime did get a great shot of the elder Mayweather prior to the 12th round. He was pointing to someone in the crowd and laughing, saying essentially, I told you this would be easy. And he was right.  

After six rounds of the Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse junior welterweight showdown, I had Matthysse ahead 48-46, or four to two. I thought that Matthysse had a very strong opening two frames, scoring with pulverizing lead left hooks. Those shots could've been regarded as jaw-dropping, but to the surprise of many observers (include me in this category) Garcia just stood there and took the punches like a pro. When Garcia was hurt – and he was – he expertly tied up and minimized damage. 
Garcia worked his way into the fight and had a very strong fourth round with some excellent counter lefts. He had a wonderful counter left uppercut-left hook combination that showed his expert precision and creativity.
But by the sixth round, it looked like Garcia was slowing down. Matthysse was landing his power punches, but more importantly, he was starting to win rounds technically – flashing his jab to set up shots, moving to spots in the ring to capitalize on his power and negating Garcia's offense.
In between the sixth and seventh round, Garcia's father/trainer, Angel, implored his son to be more aggressive. He slapped the fighter on the ear, exhorting him to take control of the fight.
Ultimately, Garcia won the fight with two punches. In the seventh, he connected with a lead left hook on Matthysse's eye that caused rapid swelling, essentially shutting the eye for much of the last half of the fight. As Malignaggi pointed out in the broadcast, Matthysse's corner didn't use an enswell on the eye, which led to Matthysse becoming a sitting duck for Garcia's hook in the eighth and ninth rounds.
However, Matthysse started to shorten up his punches later in the fight. Instead on swinging for knockouts, he started connecting with compact right hands that scored in the 10th and damaged Garcia in the 11th. But during an exchange in the 11th, Matthysse found himself out of position in between the ropes. Garcia expertly maneuvered himself around Matthysse and landed a left hook that dropped Matthysse to the canvas – the first time he had been knocked down in his professional career. The blow didn't necessarily hurt Matthysse but he fell from the punch and referee Tony Weeks correctly ruled the sequence a knockdown. Ultimately, Garcia went from losing a 10-9 round to winning a 10-8 round. With two judges scoring the fight for Garcia 114-112 (I also had it for Garcia 114-112), without that punch, Garcia loses the fight 114-113 by a split decision.
This was the second fight of Garcia's career where he won as a significant underdog (the Amir Khan bout was the first). It's safe to say that the boxing world – including Golden Boy, his promotional outfit – has underrated his abilities in the ring. Saturday was a perfect display of Garcia's world-class intangibles. As Malignaggi observed during the fight, Garcia had a lot of success catching and shooting – he blocked Matthysse's punches and then fired back with an effective counter. And as Malignaggi stated with amazement, few fighters would've even attempted that strategy against Matthysse because it meant staying in the pocket against such a heavy hitter. Yet Garcia's poise under fire, ring intelligence, self-confidence and patience have provided him with victories over a number of "superior" talents.  
Sure there were other savvy things that Garcia did. Going low repeatedly against an aggressive hard charger is one way to slow a guy down. Fellow Philadelphian Bernard Hopkins certainly would've approved of Garcia's repeated shots south of the border. (However, the old master wouldn't have condoned the low blow in the 12th; Hopkins hardly ever had points taken away, despite myriad fouls.) As mentioned earlier, Garcia tied up so wonderfully when he was hurt that he didn't give Matthysse – or the broadcast crew – an opportunity to see how disadvantaged he really was for brief moments.
Under Angel's tutelage, Garcia has become one of the more intelligent fighters in the sport. He never beats himself in the ring. Although not a defensive master, he makes quick adjustments. He has a wide arsenal of punches and a variety of ways to unleash them. He's become a surgical counterpuncher. Give him enough time and he'll find a way to capitalize on an opponent's mistake.
Matthysse wasn't bad on Saturday. He won five rounds on my card, but he could've pulled the fight out with a better corner. Al Bernstein was correct in stating that Matthysse was too left hook-happy during the first half of the fight. After Matthysse had success in the first two rounds with lead lefts, Garcia quickly adjusted and neutralized that weapon. Matthysse also didn't consistently use his jab to set up shots and it took him a while to figure out the need to shorten up his punches. His corner, including trainer and cutman, didn't help him contain damage to his eye or give him actionable instructions in how better to win rounds. Part of being a champion fighter is having a world-class level corner. Matthysse might consider making some changes in this area.
Matthysse has now lost three fights by slim margins. All were fights he could've potentially won (the "loss" to Alexander wasn't really legitimate in my eyes). Those three outings are the difference between Matthysse being one of the truly elite talents in the sport instead of a hard hitter who can be outmaneuvered. Not every opponent will wilt from Matthysse's power, and when he's had to think through fights against Judah and now Garcia, his adjustments haven't come fast enough. He'll still beat a lot of guys and he certainly has championship-caliber skills, but to be considered the best, a fighter has to win in different ways. To this point, Matthysse has not proven that he can reliably beat good fighters who can take his power.
As expected, the Ishe Smith-Carlos Molina junior middleweight title bout was awful. Both fighters relied on grappling, holding, elbowing and assorted other tactics that deprived the boxing public of an entertaining fight. Molina started aggressively and when he landed, which wasn't often, he scored with short right hands, left hooks and an occasional uppercut. Smith just wouldn't let his hands go early and although he stymied much of Molina's offensive work, he didn't initiate enough to win rounds.
By the eighth, Smith was successful in creating distance and he scored with right hands and left hooks. Molina was less anxious to engage and the fight seemed to be on a trajectory of a "tale of two halves." I gave Molina the first seven rounds, but Smith picked up rounds 8-11 on my card. It certainly was conceivable with the amount of inaction earlier in the match that the fight was still on the table for Smith.
But Molina, a fighter who had been on the short end of a number of decisions in his career, came out firing in the 12th. Driving Smith to the ropes with short right hands, he dominated the champion with clean punching. The announcers wondered aloud why Molina couldn't have fought with the same type of skill and urgency throughout the fight – in fact, we all wondered that. 
Ultimately Molina won a split decision, with the scores 116-112 (as on my card), 117-111 and 112-116. Somehow Adelaide Byrd's winning card for Smith wasn't the worst score of the night (thank you again, C.J. Ross), but she clearly missed the fight. Maybe Smith picked up six rounds with a generous tally but eight was too much.
Like Smith, Molina is an easy fighter to root for on a personal level but a difficult one to watch in the ring. He has good footwork and an understanding of how he needs to win, but his formula of grappling, neutralizing and occasional offense isn't thrilling to watch. Perhaps he next gets a shot against Saul Alvarez. With his style and lack of fan support, he'll need to win 9 or 10 rounds to have any chance of picking up a decision.

The evening's first fight on the Pay Per View card was an unexpected treat, with Ashley Theophane and Pablo Cesar Cano waging a spirited battle. Theophane was awarded the spot on the broadcast because he fights under the Mayweather promotional banner and was used as one of Floyd's sparring partners leading up to the Alvarez fight. A veteran boxer from England with an up-and-down career, Theophane was given a winnable opportunity against a fighter who had just lost to an ancient Shane Mosley. 
Early in the match, Theophane attempted to outmaneuver Cano with his boxing skills and defense but his strategy wasn't successful as Cano did an excellent job of cutting off the ring and landing solid left hooks and straight right hands. By the fifth round, Theophane decided to hold his ground and let his accuracy work for him. Gradually, he turned the fight around. His straight right hand landed hard on Cano frequently and he started to work in combinations with his jab and left hand.
On my card, the fight was even after eight. Cano, another fighter who had recently lost a debatable decision on the cards (against Malignaggi), pressed Theophane over the last two rounds of the bout, hurting him badly in the 10th. The final scores were 97-93, 98-92 (way too wide) and 94-96, with Cano picking up the victory (I scored it 96-94 Cano).
Cano is the perfect "B" fighter in boxing. Take an aging Erik Morales or an underprepared Malignaggi and Cano can cause all sorts of problems. He lacks speed, a large arsenal and a true knockout punch, but he gives an honest effort every time out. Although not really an athlete, Cano has fairly good footwork and a high ring I.Q. He executes his game plan (left hooks and straight right hands in close) pretty well. He'll beat a good name or two in this sport before he is finished.

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, September 13, 2013

Mayweather-Alvarez: Keys to the Fight

The most anticipated boxing match of 2013 takes place in Las Vegas on Saturday between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) and undefeated Mexican sensation Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs). Although two 154-lb. title belts will be on the line, Saturday's stakes will be far greater than shiny trinkets. Alvarez wants Mayweather's status in the sport – the one who drives the bus that is North American boxing.
With a record live gate (over $20M) already recorded, Mayweather-Alvarez has captured the imagination of the sports and entertainment world. But will the match live up to the considerable hype? Will the 23-year-old Alvarez become the next transcendent Mexican boxing star, or will he be another in the long line of good fighters who come up short against the sport's top dog? Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.
1. Mayweather will give up the early rounds; Canelo must win them.
Mayweather often takes a number of rounds to size up his opponents. He wants to see their arsenals, measure their speed, gauge their reactions, observe how they react to feints, feel their strength and gently test their defensive technique before he lets his hands go. Alvarez must take advantage of this period to score points. He needs to start with energy and capitalize during lulls in the action.
However, it's not enough for Alvarez just to wing punches during the first three rounds; he has to attack purposefully. It's imperative that he features his entire arsenal early and not fall into predictable patterns. Alvarez is one of the most creative combination punchers in the sport and he must utilize this attribute to keep Mayweather guessing. He'll get a free chance to land anything once or twice early before Mayweather adapts and starts to employ his countering strategies. 
So if Alvarez wants to take a risk early and launch a lead uppercut combination (Alvarez may throw the best lead right uppercut in the sport) or a straight right to the body/left hook to the body/right uppercut to the head, it's an avenue worth pursuing. These punches and combinations are eye-catching to the judges and the crowd. Canelo also needs to figure out which of his many punches and combinations may be successful in the second half of the fight. If Floyd winds up winning two of the first three rounds, Canelo's chances to win the fight will be minimal at best.
2. Floyd's foot speed and movement.
One way to make Alvarez look pedestrian is not to stand in front of him. Alvarez, although not exactly lumbering, is very deliberate with his movements. He shines when the action is in mid-range and there's a nice, comfortable pocket. Mayweather is one of slickest fighters in the sport and as he demonstrated against Robert Guerrero earlier in the year, he still has fresh legs. Mayweather will employ a variety of tactics to confound, frustrate and flummox Alvarez in the ring. He'll potshot with lead right hands and move to the side. Often he'll step out the pocket and wait to reset the action. He'll use the ring to find particular spaces where he wants to attack. When the action is in close and his work is done, he'll spin out with impressive fluidity.
At 36, Mayweather won't want to run a track meet (to be fair, he was never really a runner, but too many in boxing conflate boxing with running); however, he does have an acute understanding of his advantages. He'll make Alvarez constantly reset his feet. He'll move Alvarez side-to-side and turn him with left hooks in the middle of the ring.
For Alvarez to have success, he must understand distance and land enough power shots to keep Floyd more stationary. This means he will need to go to the body early. He can't let up along the ropes and he also has to be willing to eat a shot or two in order to score with his own punches. Mayweather will be cagey; it's up to Alvarez to nullify Mayweather's speed advantages by using his physicality, tying-up strategically on the inside and having the courage to throw his most damaging shots.
3. Alvarez must cut off the ring.
Alvarez isn't blessed with excellent foot speed but he knows how to launch an attack against faster opponents. It's imperative that Alvarez positions himself in the ring with expert precision. On the inside, Alvarez must find the sweet spot between stifling his power shots by being too close and leaving too much space for Floyd to duck out to either side.
In addition, he needs to anticipate where Floyd will go next. This can be accomplished by foot positioning as well as punch placement. It may mean that Alvarez uses feints to draw out Mayweather's movement. If Mayweather wants to go right, then Alvarez might need to feint the right hand and come back with a left hook to a spot (especially along the ropes). It might mean flashing – and not necessarily landing – the double jab to keep Mayweather at bay and follow up with a looping right hand to dissuade him from going left. Alvarez must act cerebrally and decisively to minimize Mayweather's athleticism and ability to evade pressure.
4. Alvarez has to steal rounds.
Let's face it. The mature version of Mayweather has never won fights by throwing 70 punches a round. More likely, he will be in the 30-45 range for a given frame. Thus, there will be natural dead spots during his fights. Mayweather often wins rounds by landing a couple of key shots on offense and then he uses his defense, movement and ring generalship to stymie his opponents from emphatically engaging. In short, his fights are most often dominant technical victories that don't offer much in the way of sustained action.
Alvarez must understand that he won't be able to land cleanly throughout much of the fight. He also can't let this reality hinder him from making a spirited effort to win each round. He needs to realize that he has specific advantages in this fight and that only by exploiting them will he allow himself the best chance for victory.
The crowd will certainly be in his favor (he'll have the pro-Mexican and anti-Mayweather contingents on his side) and his fans will be ready to support his every foray. He must capitalize on this dynamic by ensuring that he gives the crowd two or three impressive flurries each round. In particular, Alvarez must make sure that he has at least one late flurry each round to galvanize the crowd as the bell rings. With real fan support throughout the fight, it's certainly possible that the judges, who often like to score rounds for the aggressor, irrespective of whether punches land, will be more disposed to give Alvarez many of the closely contested frames. 
Neither Alvarez nor Mayweather fights three minutes a round and if Alvarez can launch a few impressive flurries a round and control the end of each frame, or at least provide the appearance that he is, he will give himself a much better shot at winning a decision.
5. Conditioning.
Mayweather is one of the best conditioned athletes in the sport. And Alvarez is...Alvarez is something less than that. His activity level and movement against Austin Trout were concerning at various points in the fight. In that bout, he started gasping and huffing early in the fight, resembling a 154-lb. version of Alexander Povetkin.  Conversely, Mayweather gets stronger as his fights progress. He knows that the last six rounds, when opponents start to fatigue, are his.
Whether Alvarez has the conditioning to remain physically and mentally sharp against a boxer of Mayweather's caliber may be the most intriguing factor in assessing the fight. Will Alvarez start to reach with his punches? Will he start to follow Mayweather around the ring without throwing? Will he lose his accuracy, leading to easy counters? Will he still have the energy to trap and corner Mayweather along the ropes? Will his defensive technique remain sound, or will he start to drop his hands? Will he still have steam on his shots? Will he have the desire to go for the knockout if he's down late in the fight?
One additional aspect to consider for this bout is the 152-lb. catchweight. Since 2011, Canelo has been a full-fledged junior middleweight. If he had his druthers, this fight would have been at 154 lbs. It's certainly possible that cutting an extra couple of pounds could provide problems for Alvarez. It's also conceivable that his nutritionist and strength and training coach will have him coming into the fight in the best shape of his career. I won't be so bold as to predict how the catchweight will affect Alvarez during the fight, but it certainly could be a factor if his energy level starts to flag or there are other signs of subpar conditioning.
Here's how Alvarez can win the fight: He must win four of the first six rounds. He'll need to come out fresh, throwing his power shots and taking advantage of Floyd's deliberate start. As the fight progresses, Alvarez must try to steal three of the last six rounds, either by flurrying late or landing one or two bombs per round (I think flurrying late is the better strategy of the two). He'll need to galvanize the crowd and hope that his aggression can find two sympathetic judges. (On this front, he just might be successful. Judge C.J. Ross somehow scored Pacquiao-Bradley for Bradley and Craig Metcalfe believed that Andre Ward only beat Carl Froch by two points.)
But will this happen? It's possible, but I don't think it's likely. I believe that Alvarez will start off well but he’ll struggle in the second half of the fight. Mayweather's unpredictability, accuracy, creativity and conditioning will allow him to take control of the match in the later rounds. Mayweather will gradually unleash more of his arsenal and Canelo will not respond well to Mayweather's improvisational offense or psychological pressure. I don't believe that Canelo will embarrass himself in the ring – in fact, I see him winning a number of the early rounds – but the limits of his conditioning and the gap of championship experience will be too much for him to overcome.
Floyd Mayweather defeats Saul Alvarez by unanimous decision, along the lines of 116-112, or 8 rounds to 4.

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, September 10, 2013

Garcia-Matthysse: Keys to the Fight

On Saturday’s "The One" Pay Per View fight card, headlined by Mayweather-Alvarez, the junior welterweight showdown between undefeated champion Danny Garcia (26-0, 16 KOs) and knockout artist Lucas Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs) may provide the most fireworks. A matchup that could be a main event in its own right, Garcia-Matthysse will determine the top fighter at 140 lbs. Read below for the keys to the fight. My prediction will be at the end of the article.  

1. Chins.

The obvious concern is Garcia's chin, which was dented by Zab Judah earlier in the year. Judah landed some thunderous straight left hands in the second half of their fight. Garcia was clearly rattled by a couple of the blows and Judah's offense was significant enough to thwart Garcia's aggression. However, Garcia did a nice job of disguising how hurt he was (especially in the 11th round) and surviving some rocky moments to win the fight.

With that said, Matthysse is the hardest puncher in the division. Featuring a crushing straight right hand and a deadly left hook, Matthysse has a number of knockout weapons. In addition, as Matthysse has improved as a fighter, he has learned how to set up shots better, specifically, by controlling distance, working behind the jab and throwing tighter combinations. Garcia will get rocked in the fight, but will he be able to withstand Matthysse's big punches? And as Matthysse aims for the stoppage, will he leave himself exposed for Garcia's vaunted counters?

Looking at this matchup from the opposite perspective, Garcia might be the hardest puncher that Matthysse has faced as a professional (a case could be made for Judah as well), and Matthysse can definitely be hit. Matthysse likes to sit in the pocket and trade shots, relying on his power and chin to get the better of exchanges. He also looks to fight on the inside and, at times, will take one in order to land one. However, Garcia is a gifted counter puncher who can connect with the left hook, right hand or left or right uppercut. In addition to his wide arsenal, Garcia has spectacular timing and accuracy on his counter shots.

In terms of pure punching power, Matthysse has the edge. But punch placement and timing can really even out the score. If Matthysse comes in recklessly, he could get hit with some massive shots. He's never been down as a professional; against Garcia, we'll see how good his chin really is.

2. Garcia has to land something hard early.

Matthysse is a knockout artist, but he's also cerebral and patient. Against good opposition, Matthysse often takes a few rounds to close the distance and press the attack. As he has developed, he has learned to start faster, but he still can be a tad deliberate. Thus, it's imperative for Garcia to make a statement early in the fight.

Garcia lacks the foot speed or belief in his jab to trouble Matthysse the way that Judah did early in their match. For Garcia, the answer will be to land convincing power shots. His best answer might be 2-3 combinations – right hand to the body, left hook to the head. In addition, Matthysse can be hit on the way in. Garcia needs to use head and upper body feints to draw punches from Matthysse and then counter with what's available. If Garcia can get Matthysse to throw an out-of-position right hand, he can come back with the left hook. If Matthysse's jab is off target, he can counter with the straight right hand or slip the shot and use the left hook to the body.

Whichever combinations that Garcia utilizes, he has to land convincingly enough to stall Matthysse's forward progress, keeping him away from close range. If Garcia can't earn Matthysse's respect early in the fight, it will only be a matter of time until Matthysse tees off on him on the inside.

3. Matthysse must remember to win rounds.

Yes, Garcia has been hurt before, but he has demonstrated the ring savvy to get through rough patches. Garcia's greatest strengths are his poise and comportment in the ring. He doesn't beat himself and he has survived heavy fire from Erik Morales, Amir Khan and Judah to earn decisive victories.

Remember, Judah hadn't been known for his chin, yet he survived 10 rounds to eke out a win over Matthysse. In addition, Matthysse put Devon Alexander on the canvas, but couldn't get the stoppage – he wound up with a controversial loss.

Garcia is a well-schooled fighter with a deep amateur background. It's doubtful that he will fold up like an accordion. Thus, Matthysse can't waste rounds gunning for a spectacular knockout. Matthysse must win rounds. And if he can't land concussive blows, he'll have to work behind his jab and hit what's available. He has to remember to win the fight and not fall behind while trying to make a statement.

4. Matthysse needs to walk in behind something. 

As I mentioned earlier, Matthysse can be hit coming in. He sometimes will keep his guard a little too wide or telegraph punches. Garcia is a shrewd fighter. He'll find a way to get past Matthysse's defense given enough time. For Matthysse, he'll get clipped if he moves forward without throwing punches. His jab (whether it lands or not) will be a key to set up shots in close range, but don't rule out either his lead left hook or a lead straight right hand to the body or head. 

Matthysse is a complete fighter when he sets up his power punches, but when he stalks fighters or follows opponents around the ring without moving his hands, he is susceptible to big shots. Humberto Soto hit him with a number of impressive punches on the inside, so did Olusegun Ajose and Judah. If/when Matthysse hurts Garcia, he needs to stay under control and not attack recklessly; Garcia can be at his most dangerous when under duress (the Khan fight is a great example of this). Matthysse is one of the more gifted fighters in the sport at mid-range and closer, but getting in is where he's most vulnerable. By closing the distance behind punches, he becomes much more effective. 

5. Angel Garcia.

Angel Garcia, Danny's father and trainer, is mostly known for his outlandish statements outside the ring, while his considerable skills as a coach are often neglected by the boxing public. He had a wonderful game plan for disposing of Khan and he wisely instructed his son to feature the right hand to the body against Judah to initiate offense. Make no mistake: Danny will be prepared for this fight. It will be fascinating to see what Garcia's plan of attack will be against Matthysse. Will Angel encourage his son to pick spots in the ring and fight selectively? Use feints and counters? Lead with straight right hands? Angel's game plan will be essential in giving his son an opportunity to win. 

Matthysse will hurt Garcia at some point in the fight, but what will be Angel's Plan B? Danny knows how to tie-up and buy time, but can Angel find a solution for how to win rounds after his son has been hurt? It's fun to watch the Garcias (both Angel and Danny) think their way through fights; this will be a supreme test of both of their skills.


I believe that this match will start out in a measured pace, with both fighters respectful of each other's power. Matthysse and Garcia will try a variety of maneuvers to see what they can effectively land on the other. I think that Garcia will take the first couple of rounds based on work rate and ring generalship. He'll have some success going to the body with the straight right hand as well as landing the odd jab here and there.

Ultimately, Matthysse will use his skills in cutting off the ring to turn the fight in his favor. I think that he'll land some powerful lead left hooks and have his moments exchanging right hands. As the fight progresses, the difference in power will manifest. Although Garcia will land a few of his best counters, those shots won't be enough to deter Matthysse from applying his brand of intelligent pressure. By the fourth or fifth round, Matthysse will connect with something truly devastating (straight right hand or left hook) and send Garcia to the canvas. Matthysse will then more freely let his hands go. As he scores, he won't smother himself or permit Garcia to tie up excessively on the inside. Eventually, Garcia will take too many big shots, forcing referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight.

Lucas Matthysse TKO 6 Danny Garcia.  

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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